February is American Heart Month, a time when all people can focus on their cardiovascular health. Heart disease has long been the leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), heart disease has claimed the lives of nearly 700,000 Americans. The CDC also reported that nearly half of all American adults have at least one major risk factor of cardiovascular disease. From heart attacks and strokes to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease threatens almost every family in our Nation. While heart conditions can be costly and deadly, they are also often preventable with access to affordable health care, advancements in technology, and lifestyle changes. It is important to be informed of the most prevalent heart diseases and how they may be prevented.
Common Risk Factors for Heart Disease
Although there is a plethora of risk factors associated with heart disease, there a several that have created a widespread concern among Americans and their physicians.
- High blood pressure is often called the silent killer. Symptoms may not be present, but it is a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke, being more common than cigarette smoking, high cholesterol, or diabetes, which are the other major risk factors.
- Hypertension often coexists with these other risk factors as well as with overweight/obesity, an unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity. The presence of more than one risk factor increases the risk of adverse cardiovascular events.
- A diet high in sodium can increase blood pressure. Eating enough potassium each day can help balance out some of the harmful effects of high sodium intake on blood pressure. Although, lowering sodium intake is key to this balance.
- Diabetes, left untreated, can lead to heart disease, among many other complications. Diabetes can be easily detected through a simple blood test and managed in a variety of ways under the care of a physician.
Reducing The Risk of Heart Disease
As treatments and access to care improve, awareness can be raised on the importance of a healthy heart. While genetic factors do play a part in cardiovascular disease, the good news is that the CDC reports that 80 percent of cardiovascular diseases may be preventable with education and action. Below you will find several ways in which the risk of cardiovascular disease can be reduced.
- Physical Fitness
Exercising regularly, eating well, managing weight, and avoiding smoking or vaping are proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Strength training compliments cardiovascular exercise by toning muscles and burning fat. In addition, proper strength training can improve daily functional movements, decreasing the chance of injury. The American Heart Association recommends getting in two days of moderate to high-intensity strength training each week.
Also, meditation or yoga has shown to reduce stress levels, which will keep blood pressure in a healthy range. A healthy goal would be to exercise for 150 minutes per week.
- Eating Healthy
Too much cholesterol can elevate the risk of heart disease and stroke, which are two leading causes of death in the United States. Foods that are rich in saturated fats should be consumed in small amounts. These foods include but are not limited to cheese, fatty meats, and dairy desserts.
Some healthier options include a diet with lean meats, seafood, fat-free or low-fat milk/cheese/yogurt, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables. Eating foods that are naturally high in fiber, such as oatmeal and beans, have also been shown to help maintain cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Monitoring Blood Pressure
Monitoring blood pressure at home, eating a healthier/more balanced diet, and increasing physical activity can help keep blood pressure under control. Therefore, regularly monitoring blood pressure, with support from a health care team, can ultimately help lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Quitting Smoking
Smoking is directly linked to developing cardiovascular disease, smoking cessation is highly recommended. This risk may also be lowered by decreasing alcohol intake, as excessive alcohol consumption can lead to elevated blood pressure levels.
- Maintaining Regular Appointments
Finally, one crucial way to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke is by keeping current with wellness exam visits to monitor for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other risk factors for heart disease & stroke.
Doctors’ visits and screenings are important at any age, especially if there is a risk of developing heart disease. TopLine MD affiliated physicians are here to help keep patient’s health in check. To visit with a physician, click on the ‘Find a Provider button at the top, right corner of this page.
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