When we think of February, we think about Valentine’s Day and love. Well, this post is about one where I love you enough to share some hard facts about your heart health. Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States? One person dies every 34 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease. Just a couple years ago, in 2020, about 697,000 people in the United States died from heart disease, that’s 1 in every 5 deaths.
We can expand our view to include the world and it doesn’t get much better. In the last 20 years, heart disease has remained the leading cause of death at the global level. The number of deaths from heart disease increased by more than 2 million since 2000, to nearly 9 million in 2019. Heart disease now represents 16% of total deaths from all causes.
The good news is that we can take steps to prevent becoming one of these statistics.
There are several risk factors consisting of health conditions, your lifestyle, age, and family history that can increase your risk for heart disease. About half of all Americans, 47%, have at least 1 of 3 risk factors for heart disease including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. You can’t control your age and family history but you can control your health.
High blood pressure is something you can control and is a major risk factor for heart disease. It is a medical condition that happens when the pressure of the blood in your arteries and other blood vessels is too high. The high pressure, if not controlled, can affect your heart and other major organs, including your kidneys and brain. You have to have it checked because it usually has no symptoms. You can lower it with lifestyle changes or with medicine.
Unhealthy blood cholesterol levels is another risk factor that you can change. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made by the liver or found in certain foods. Your liver makes enough for your body’s needs, but we often get more cholesterol from the foods we eat. Extra cholesterol can build up in the walls of the arteries, including those of the heart. This leads to narrowing of the arteries and can decrease the blood flow to the heart, brain, kidneys, and other parts of the body. LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, is considered to be bad because it can cause plaque buildup in your arteries. As with blood pressure, it usually has no signs or symptoms so you have to get it checked.
Diabetes Your body needs glucose (sugar) for energy. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that helps move glucose from the food you eat to your body’s cell for energy. If you have diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin, can’t use its own insulin as well as it should, or both. Diabetes causes sugar to build up in the blood. The risk of death from heart disease for adults with diabetes is higher than for adults who don’t have diabetes.
Obesity is excess body fat. Obesity is linked to higher “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride levels and to lower “good” levels. Obesity can lead to high blood pressure and diabetes as well as heart disease.
Prevent Heart Disease
By living a healthy lifestyle, you can keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels normal and lower your risk for heart disease and heart attack.
Choose healthy habits
- Choose Healthy Foods and Drinks.
- Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods.
- Eating lots of foods high in saturated fat and trans fat may contribute to heart disease.
- Eating foods high in fiber and low in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol can help prevent high cholesterol.
- Limiting salt (sodium) in your diet can also lower your blood pressure.
- Limiting sugar in your diet can lower your blood sugar level to prevent or help control diabetes.
- Do not drink too much alcohol, which can raise your blood pressure. Men should have no more than 2 drinks per day, and women no more than 1 drink per day.
- Keep a Healthy Weight
- Get regular physical activity.
- Don’t smoke.
- Take Charge of Your Medical Conditions
- Check your cholesterol
- Control your blood pressure
- Manage your diabetes
- Take your medications as directed
- Work with your health care team
If you want to know more, check out these Freeman/Lozier resources.