While it’s true that heart disease is the #1 cause of death in the US for both women and men, it’s also true that you have some control over certain risk factors that lead up to heart disease, even reverse some of the symptoms if they’re caught early on. Heart Disease is considered a lifestyle disease, which means its main causes are lifestyle choices such as diet and lack of exercise. This is good news as it means that we have an adequate amount of control over it. The important thing is to learn all you can about these factors and how they can be regulated so you can enjoy a healthy, strong disease-free heart.
What exactly is heart disease? It’s usually a broad term which refers to several conditions relating to an unhealthy heart, which may include:
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Hardening of the arteries
- Heart valve problems
The good news is that there are things you can do to help avoid any type of heart disease. Generally, heart diseases don’t happen overnight. It develops over the years, and its symptoms may be spurred on or slowed down depending on the lifestyle choices you make starting from your early adulthood years.
Some scientists even argue that it starts as early as your childhood because it’s all connected. This also makes sense from the perspective of heart disease is a lifestyle disease, as many of our eating and activity habits are solidified in childhood.
When it comes to preventing heart disease, the American Heart Association and other health experts break it down into 3 categories:
- Primordial prevention is for those who have no risk factors that could result in heart disease. This type of prevention works at avoiding any type of inflammation within the lining of the heart while maintaining heart health in order to ward off high blood pressure, extra weight, and high cholesterol.
- Primary prevention is meant to prevent someone who’s at risk for heart disease from having a heart attack, stroke, or develop any other type of heart disease, or need surgery or angioplasty. It provides a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle for individuals who suffer from high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels. Medications may also be prescribed in an effort to control these risk factors and bring them down to healthier levels.
- Secondary prevention is the measures taken after someone has suffered from some type of heart disease or undergone heart surgery. These may include taking medications to lower cholesterol levels and aspirin to help prevent blood clots. It also includes eating healthier foods, exercising regularly to ward off stress and manage weight, quitting smoking if needed and regulating how much alcohol is consumed on a daily basis. The aim of secondary prevention is to defend against a second heart attack and to stop any advancing heart disease symptoms.
First things first, let’s find out what risk factors can’t be controlled so you can get them out of the way and focus on what you can control.
Risk factors you can’t change:
- Family history
Risk factors within your control:
- Manage your weight
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
- Regular exercise
- Low blood pressure
- Low cholesterol and triglycerides (the most common type of body fats) levels
- Maintain blood sugar levels
- Limit alcoholic consumption
- No smoking
- Manage stress
- Get quality, uninterrupted sleep
Whether you’re working on maintaining a healthy heart or working at reducing certain risk factors, studies have proven that making healthy lifestyle choices can fend off nearly 80% of heart diseases, 75% of sudden cardiac deaths and 50% of strokes. It’s never too early to start making those smart choices and start investing in a healthier, brighter, longer life.