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5 Risk Factors for Heart Disease
(NOVEMBER 2013) Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says, “about 600,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year,” and, “coronary heart disease alone cost the United States $108.9 billion each year.” In short, the convenience lifestyle our society embraces is slowly killing us.
Here are five of the top risk factors for heart disease – and they’re all within your control.
Unbelievably, tobacco ads in the 50s actually used doctors to promote smoking as a healthy choice. Now, we know better. We’ve seen the negative health effects from studies of smokers who are ill or have passed away because of it. Smoking increases your chance for heart attacks and heart disease because nicotine constricts blood vessels and carbon monoxide damages the cardiovascular system. Of course, smoking also causes a wide variety of lung diseases.
The best advice is to never start smoking in the first place; however, if you’re a current smoker, quitting can help reverse some of the existing damage.
This is always brought up when you’re talking about heart disease. Maintaining proper cholesterol levels is important to keeping your heart health. If you’re not familiar, your body has two types of cholesterol: HDL – the good cholesterol and LDL – the bad cholesterol. The general rule of thumb here is to make sure your HDL is higher than 40 mg/dl for men or 50 mg/dl for women. LDL should be kept under 70 mg/dl. HDL transports fats and cholesterol from cells and arteries to the liver for processing. LDL serves a similar purpose, but can get stuck to the artery walls and over time plaque and blood clots can build in the arteries and cause a heart attack or even trigger a stroke.
Eat a diet low in cholesterol, saturated and trans fats. This will help you achieve balanced levels and reduce your risk for heart disease. Exercise and medications can also help lower your LDL and increase your HDL.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of most common risk factors for heart disease. In today’s world of quick, convenient foods laden with loads of sugar and salt, it’s no wonder why high blood pressure is such a common occurrence. Stress and lack of exercise also contribute to high blood pressure. It’s recommended that you maintain a 120 systolic and 80 diastolic pressure, which is read as 120/80 to fit within the suggested optimal level.
While controlling your blood pressure is different across individuals, general rule of thumb is to maintain a healthy diet low in sodium and exercise regularly to keep your heart strong and lower your resting heart rate.
Activity and Stress
The world is advancing at a lighting pace, but people are less active as advancements make life easier. While playing a few video games or watching movies is great, it starts to affect your body over time. Decreases in activity tend to lead to increased weight, negative mood and elevated stress levels. It also leads to heart complications since you’re straining your body and mind.
Here again, exercise is key. Any exercise is better than no exercise. Start slow and build up to more strenuous exercise over time. If you’re already using an exercise routine but find it’s not enough to overcome your stress, try relaxation techniques, yoga or just take a day off and relax at a day spa.
If you are currently dealing with heart disease, it’s a good idea to let people close to you know about it in case of emergency. Wearing one of our medical ID bracelets is a stylish way to be safe, as it will let first responders know about your condition when they come to your rescue.