Heart disease may be the leading cause of death in the United States, but that doesn’t mean you should accept it as the outcome for poor lifestyle choices. While you don’t have power over genetics or age, there are plenty of ways to prevent heart disease. You can do this by attacking problems like high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and smoking.
Various forms of heart disease can be prevented or treated by implementing new healthy habits in your day-to-day routine. Here are the five most common causes of heart disease and how to manage them.
(Download and bring this free worksheet with you to your next heart appointment.)
1. High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure can cause deposits of plaque to harden and thicken along the walls of your arteries. This, in turn, narrows your blood vessels and restricts blood flow to your heart and other vital organs. When a blockage occurs, your heart is working harder than it should to pump blood through the body – increasing your risk of heart attack or stroke.
There are two key numbers you should be paying attention to: systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Your regular blood pressure should be at 120/80 mmHg while an elevated blood pressure should hit somewhere between 120-129. Lifestyle plays an important role in treating high blood pressure. While eating healthier and reducing sodium can help, these 10 exercises can lower stress and high blood pressure as well.
2. High Cholesterol
High cholesterol is another major cause of heart disease. LDL, known as “bad cholesterol,” can increase the formation of plaque in your arteries. While high cholesterol is associated with heart disease, it can also result in ailments like diabetes, kidney failure and liver disease. The best way to learn if your cholesterol is high is through a blood test. Click here for a lowdown on where those numbers need to be.
To prevent or manage high cholesterol levels, we recommend reducing your intake of saturated and trans fats. If you’re still experiencing high cholesterol after making the necessary changes in diet and exercise, schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss medications and other activities to help lower it.
In a 2015 report led by the CDC, 2015, 30.3 million Americans had diabetes and another 84.1 million had prediabetes in 2015. Prediabetes is a condition that, if left untreated, leads to type 2 diabetes within five years. Those with diabetes have a higher chance of developing serious health complications like heart disease, stroke, vision loss, kidney failure and premature death.
Similar to high blood pressure, diabetes can be prevented through diet and physical activity as well as managed through the appropriate use of insulin or medication to control blood sugar levels. Click here to read more about type 2 diabetes and the simple steps you can take to lower your risk.
Metabolic syndrome – a combination of excess weight around the abdomen and physical inactivity also increases your chance of heart disease. Obesity is highly prevalent in the U.S., not only for adults but for children too. Obesity places you at risk for developing insulin resistance, a precursor of type 2 diabetes mentioned above.
Your body mass index (BMI) can help you identify if you’re at a healthy weight. Although your genes may influence the development of type 2 diabetes, they take a backseat to lifestyle factors like nutrition and exercise. If you already have diabetes, your doctor may prescribe medication to further these efforts.
Smoking or using tobacco of any kind is another significant risk factor for developing heart disease. Nicotine constricts your blood vessels and the carbon monoxide damages the inner lining, making them more susceptible to a buildup of plaque in the arteries.
The carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke replaces some of the oxygen in your blood, forcing your heart to work harder to supply oxygen to the rest of your body. Smoking can also trigger an irregular heart rhythm and raise your blood pressure. Both of which are leading causes of stroke. Here’s some more information on how smoking affects your heart and circulatory system.
Screening tells you where your numbers are – and whether you need to take action.
Factors like high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes can damage your heart and blood vessels. But without testing, you probably won’t know whether or not you have these conditions. Depending on risk factors, such as a family history of diabetes, your doctor may recommend screening for heart disease earlier. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a heart scan, reach out to our team at (918) 879-6161.
Combining efforts is the best way to tackle heart disease.
You can't take care of others unless you take care of yourself. Download this worksheet, bring it with you to your next appointment and discuss the following questions with your doctor. Click below to download your free worksheet now.