If there is one thing that we as Americans are really good at, it’s killing over from heart attacks or other forms of cardiovascular disease (CVD). In fact, CVD is currently the leading cause of death in the United States. It claims one life every 38 seconds, resulting in about 2,300 American deaths per day. CVD is an umbrella term for a group of disorders involving the heart and blood vessels. Strokes and heart attacks are the two most common events that we notice when blood is blocked from flowing to the heart or brain. The majority of blockage and damage to the heart or its vessels is a result of fatty deposit buildups. Because CVD is largely do to our way of life, there are several things that we can do to protect ourselves from it. Bellow are six major risk factors and several contributing risk factors that can be changed.
Did you know that one in five deaths from CVD is a smoker and that smokers have twice as great a risk of having a stroke? There are several reasons why you should quit using tobacco if you currently do or not start if you haven’t yet. Tobacco use is the leading risk factor for CVD because it damages the lining of your arteries, it increases your heart rate and blood pressure, it increases your blood thickness, and it leads to fatty deposit development, among other things. To reduce your risk of CVD, don’t use tobacco.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is directly correlated with increased rates of CVD because it puts too much pressure against the blood vessel walls, which damages them. Approximately one-third of Americans currently have high blood pressure, which is pressure above 140/90 mm Hg. Eating a healthy diet abundant in fruits and vegetables, exercising, and having your blood pressure checked at least once every two years can reduce your risk of CVD.
Cholesterol is a fatty, waxlike substance that circulates throughout your bloodstream. It can be beneficial in small amounts, but in excess it clogs the arteries. Protect your heart by keeping your total cholesterol levels below 200 mg/dl through exercising frequently and maintaining a healthy diet.
Exercise may just be the closest thing we have to a “magic bullet” against heart disease because it helps to reduce the risk of all of the other leading CVD risk factors. It controls your resting heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol levels; it helps you maintain your weight; it helps to control or prevent diabetes; and it even improves the strength and elasticity of your blood vessels.
Those who are obese are two to three times more likely to die from CVD than the general population. Excess body weight and fat put an increased strain on the heart. By controlling some of the other leading CVD risk factors such as physical inactivity, high cholesterol, and diabetes, your body fat percentage is likely to decrease, which will lead to a decreased risk of CVD.
Diabetes is a condition that occurs when the body cannot utilize glucose (your body’s sugar) effectively. When your body’s blood glucose and insulin levels are elevated, they can damage the lining of your arteries. Diabetics are more vulnerable to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. There is also a correlation between diabetes and obesity, high blood pressure, and unhealthy blood lipid levels. Diabetes doubles the risk of CVD in men and triples the risk of CVD in women. Reduce your risk by doing what you can to control your diabetes if you have it or doing what you can to prevent it if you aren’t currently affected.
Contributing Risk Factors
There are also some contributing risk factors for CVD that you can work to keep under control. Some studies indicate that alcohol and other drugs play a contributing role in the development of CVD. Other studies suggest that individuals with high levels of stress, depression, anxiety, and chronic hostility or anger have a higher risk of CVD. You can protect your heart from stress by doing what you can do reduce the occurrence of the above behaviors.
Protect yourself from CVD, America’s number one killer, by doing what you can to protect yourself from the above major and contributing risk factors. Although you may never be able to completely eliminate your risk of developing CVD because of heredity, aging, gender, or ethnicity, you can greatly reduce your risk by following some simple guidelines. Do your part to protect your heart.