Heart disease (also known as cardiovascular diseases) are conditions that involve restricted or blocked blood vessels that may lead to heart attack, stroke, or chest pain (angina). It is the number one cause of death in the United States, claiming the lives of about 655,000 people annually. The irony, however, is that many people don’t take steps to protect themselves from it, even though these steps are simple.
Several things raise the risk of heart disease and they are called ‘risk factors.’ Some of them are beyond your control. Examples include age, gender, race or ethnicity, family history, and genetics, among many others. Fortunately, some things are within your control that can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. This post explores some of the most important ones.
If you’ve never smoked, that’s perfect! If you do, you should stop now! Cigarette smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals that damage your heart vessel over time. These chemicals are so pernicious that even if you’ve stopped smoking a long time ago, your heart might still be at risk. For former chronic smokers, it takes a long time for heart damages to be repaired, but some never get restored.
Furthermore, reduce exposure to secondhand smoke. A study by the FDA showed that secondhand smoke increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases by 25% to 30%.
The good news is that if you quit smoking, after about a year, your risk of heart disease drops to about half that of a smoker.
Lower Your Cholesterol Levels
Once low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol starts to build in the bloodstream, it gets deposited inside your coronary arteries, which restricts blood flow. They may even rupture. This leads to the spewing of chemicals that accelerate the formation of blood clots, which prevents oxygen-carrying blood from reaching the heart. This may, invariably, lead to a heart attack. Triglycerides are another type of fat found in the blood and they typically increase the risk of coronary artery disease, especially in women.
That’s why it is important to keep your cholesterol level in check. Healthy diets, medication, and regular exercise will help with that.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Do you know that more than two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese? This is scary considering, for most people, their lifestyle is the primary contributing factor. Being overweight or obese can result in high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. These conditions, in turn, increases your risk of heart disease.
The BMI is an important metric used to determine if your weight is healthy, based on your weight and height. A BMI of over 25 is considered unhealthy. Dieting, exercising, and medication can help you lose weight.
Eat Healthy Foods
Certain foods increase your risk of developing heart disease. Some of them include salt, sugar, processed carbohydrates, saturated fat (in full-fat dairy products and red meat), and trans fat (in fast foods, baked goods, and chips). Try to limit their intake.
Instead, opt for heart-healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, lean meat and fish, beans and other legumes, whole grains, and healthy fats like olive oil. Remember, you are what you eat!
Being active and doing exercise is beneficial for the body system. It helps to lower blood pressure, enhance blood circulation, and keep your heart and blood vessels in good condition. Furthermore, it helps to burn calories, which can help lose weight, which, in turn, lowers your blood pressure.
The great thing is that you do not need to engage in strenuous activities like football and squash to reap from the benefits of exercise. Low-impact exercises like walking, jogging, swimming, and cycling will help you stay fit.
Reduce Alcohol Intake
If you must drink, then you should limit it to less than 14 units per week. Fourteen units are equivalent to 10 small glasses of low-strength wine or 6 pints of average-strength beer. Moreover, spread your drinking over three or more days.
Excessive alcohol intake increases calories, which might cause weight gain. It also raises your blood pressure and cholesterol, which increases your risk of a heart attack. Avoid binge drinking because it may cause a sudden spike in your blood pressure, which can be harmful.
We live in a fast-paced world where many people develop unhealthy lifestyles to cope with stress – such as drinking, overeating, or smoking. As you’ve seen, all these habits substantially increase your risk of heart disease. Extreme stress is also a trigger for heart attack.
That’s why it’s important to manage your stress properly. Exercising, relaxation routines, listening to music, yoga, and meditating are more effective ways of dealing with stress.
Get Sufficient Sleep
Many people underplay the importance of sleep in maintaining good health. Not getting sufficient sleep is bad and it increases the risk of having a heart attack. Moreover, disruptive sleep conditions like sleep apnea and insomnia increase the risk of heart disease.
Most healthy adults need about 7 to 9 hours of sleep at night to function at their best. Plan your day better so you can get a good night’s rest. If you have a sleep problem that disrupts your sleep, seek medical help.
Diabetes is a risk factor for diabetic heart disease. Risk factors for diabetes include being overweight and genetics. Diabetes results in high blood sugar which damages the blood vessels and nerves that control the heart and blood vessel. Early detection can help you make the necessary lifestyle changes that can help minimize its impact. Therefore, it’s important to get tested for diabetes.
Get Regular Health Screenings
Many people have underlying health conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. But without regular screenings, it remains undetected until the problem becomes worse. That’s why it’s important to have regular blood pressure screening; at least once every one or two years. Moreover, adults should have their cholesterol level measured, at least, once every 4 to 6 years.
If any of this condition is detected on time, your doctor may prescribe medication or recommend lifestyle changes that will help reduce the risk of further complications. Make sure you follow your doctor’s instructions.
Reach out to us today with any questions you may have.