Are you ready for a few sobering statistics on heart disease?
According to the Heart Foundation, heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. Left untreated, heart disease can lead to stroke, heart attack and premature death, and it does so for approximately one million people every year.
However, it’s not all bad news. While it’s crucial that we understand how dangerous heart disease can be, we should also feel empowered that we can heavily decrease our chances of developing heart disease by how we live our lives.
Read on for a closer look at how heart disease occurs and how to help prevent it with diet and exercise.
Understanding Heart Disease and Its Causes
The heart itself is a muscle and is one of the most important in the entire body. It allows your blood to carry oxygen and nutrients to the rest of your body. Heart disease means there is a defect in the muscle which causes your body to have difficulty receiving the proper oxygen or nutrients.
While heart disease includes various different diseases of the heart and blood vessels, the most common is coronary artery disease, in which plaque builds up inside the heart and limits the amount of oxygen that can circulate within the body. When the plaque builds up enough, it can cause a blockage in the heart and lead to a heart attack or sudden coronary event.
Heart Disease Risk Factors and Symptoms
Uncontrolled blood pressure, or hypertension, is a significant risk factor for heart disease, followed closely by a family history of heart disease. Other factors, such as obesity, diabetes and smoking, can also increase the risk of developing heart disease.
Chronic heart disease can lead to a lack of blood flow to the heart, causing elevated blood pressure. Strokes are also very common when plaque and clots form and cause blockages to cerebral circulation. Heart disease can also have other ramifications within the body, such as damage to blood vessels, kidneys and eyes.
On a day-to-day basis, heart disease presents many different symptoms including fatigue, shortness of breath, leg swelling and sometimes even heart palpitations. Heart disease can also cause other diseases or conditions to worsen.
So let's move on to learning how to prevent heart disease.
Preventative Care for Heart Disease
Preventing heart disease begins with understanding your personal history and how it relates to your family history. If heart disease runs in your family or you exhibit any risk factors, it is critical to see your physician on a regular basis. You’ll develop a prevention-focused health plan and adjust your lifestyle and eating habits as needed.
From a nutrition and lifestyle perspective, it’s important to eat a balanced diet low in sugar, processed food, and complex carbohydrates and high in lean protein, whole fruits and vegetables. You’ll also need to actively manage stress and quit smoking if you are a smoker.
Other precautions for heart disease include weight loss, building up your activity level to 30-45 minutes a day and incorporating resistance training into your daily activities. Walking in a pool or doing beginner yoga are great ways to introduce exercise into an otherwise sedentary lifestyle.
There’s no denying that a person’s risk for heart disease is directly linked to their lifestyle choices. While you can’t change your genetics or family history, it’s well within your power to make exercise and nutrition choices that limit your risk for developing this chronic illness.