Heart disease – also known as cardiovascular disease – is the number one cause of death in the United States. While heart disease is a natural part of the aging process, in many cases it is preventable and its onset is premature. The key to maintaining a healthy heart is to minimize key heart disease risk factors and institute positive lifestyle changes as early as possible.
Heart Disease Risk factors
Age. Over 83% of people who die from heart disease are 65 or older.
Gender. Men have a slightly greater heart disease risk than women, but the gap is narrowing.
Heredity. Family history is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, as the children of parents with heart disease are more likely to develop it themselves.
Ethnicity. African-Americans are at the greatest risk for developing heart disease while people of Japanese descent have the lowest risk.
Smoking. The risk of developing heart disease for smokers is 2-4 times greater than for nonsmokers.
High LDL cholesterol. An accumulation of low density lipoproteins (LDL) and very low density lipoproteins (VLDL) is associated with a greater risk of heart disease.
High blood pressure. Hypertension increases stress on the heart by forcing it to do more work to pump blood.
Physical inactivity. As little as thirty minutes of moderate physical activity everyday helps prevent cardiovascular disease (among many other diseases).
Overweight and obesity. Excess body fat increases heart disease risk, and losing weight is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of a heart attack. A healthy body fat range for men is 6-20% and for women is 15-29%.
Diabetes. Both Type I and Type II diabetes are associated with a greater risk for heart disease.
Stress. An inability to manage stress can increase the risk of heart disease. It can also lead to other risk factors including weight gain, high blood pressure, smoking, and physical inactivity.
Alcohol. While moderate amounts of alcohol (about one drink per day) can reduce the risk of heart disease, chronic over consumption can increase the risk. It can also contribute to other risk factors like obesity and high blood pressure.
Heart Disease Prevention
Test cardiovascular disease risk – elevated homocysteine, C-reactive protein, triglycerides, LDL, and other factors can indicate an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Reducing these risk factors can prevent a heart attack.
Lose weight – maintain a healthy body fat percentage; Men: 6-20% and Women: 15-29%
Exercise – get at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day
Follow a healthy diet – fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, etc.
Manage stress – acupuncture, yoga, meditation and other relaxation techniques can help reduce the negative effects of stress and lower heart disease risk
Limit alcohol intake to one drink per day
Floss daily – flossing can reduce inflammation caused by bacteria in between the teeth and gums
Complementary and Alternative Heart Disease Treatments
Dietary fiber – especially beta-glucan and psyllium
Niacin (vitamin B3)
Omega-3 fatty acids like fish oil
Flax and chia seeds
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