Thu, Jun 7th 2012 06:00 am
Evan Apostolakis, N.D., Alive Medicine
Heart disease is not only preventable it is reversible if you follow the steps detailed below. Through knowledge and action we can stop North America’s number 1 cause of death.
It has been said that ”death comes like a thief in the night.” If that is indeed the case, then Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), the leading cause of death of adults (both men and women) in North America, is the most prolific thief in existence. It steals more lives than all forms of cancer combined. At least 80 per cent of heart disease is preventable. This statistic is not publicized enough in the media. Resources are usually aimed at treating the disease than preventing it. Some risk factors for CHD cannot be changed, these include:
Age: As we get older, our risk of heart disease increases.
Gender: Men have a higher risk of heart disease than pre-menopausal women, but after menopause, the risk equalizes for both men and women.
Ethnicity: Racial groups that are at a higher risk of developing heart disease are those with African, Asian, or Latin American ancestry.
Most risk factors, though, are modifiable. These factors are totally within our control and by making appropriate changes in lifestyle, our chances of developing heart disease significantly drops:
High Blood Pressure: Your goals should be a systolic (upper) level under 140 and a diastolic (lower) under 90. The higher your blood pressure, the increase risk you have of suffering a heart attack, heart failure, and stroke. 60% of adults currently suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure). Studies have shown that treating hypertension reduces the risk of heart attack by 25% (and of stroke by up to 40%.) In real numbers: 7 million heart attacks and 7.8 million strokes would be prevented.
Some steps you can take to lower your blood pressure include: lose weight and eat healthy, reduce salt consumption, control stress, and exercise – brisk walking several times a week will do just fine.
High Cholesterol: Specifically, high low density lipoprotein (LDL, commonly referred to as “bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides (a type of fat found in your blood) increases your chance of a heart “event.” Your goal should be an LDL level of 70 for those at the highest risk of CHD and up to 160 for people at low risk.
LDL cholesterol can be lowered by adopting a healthier diet – less trans and saturated fat, reducing meat consumption (in fact, studies have shown that vegetarians have a 50% less risk of CHD), eating much more vegetables and fruit, and eating foods high in fiber – reducing body fat and exercising. Lowering LDL levels can prevent more than 10 million heart attacks annually (and more than 3 million strokes.)
Excess Weight: Overweight and obesity (A Body Mass Index – BMI – of over 25 for overweight, and 30 for obese) not only spikes your chances of developing CHD disease it is also linked to elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes to name three conditions. Eating healthier and incorporating some form of exercise should be a start to managing your weight. Although there are countless fad diets out there, the best way to lose weight, is the old fashioned way, reduce the number of calories you take in daily and exercise. Weight is all about calories-in-and-calories-out.
Lack of Exercise: Upwards of 70% of adults do not engage in any kind of regular exercise. In the age of the internet, television and busy lives most people find little time to get active. The rewards for making time is well worth it. People that do exercise regularly are 50% less likely to develop coronary heart disease than those that lead a sedentary lifestyle. A good way to start an exercise program is to start slow. A few minutes a day and then work up to 30 minutes of physical activity a day. As I mentioned above, there is no need to join an expensive gym and the related costs involved to start exercising. Brisk walking is excellent for your heart and overall health.
Smoking/Tobacco Use: The use of tobacco – including secondhand smoke exposure – products greatly increases your chances of heart disease, stroke, and several cancers. Within a year of quitting, former smokers can reduce their heart disease risk by 50%. Smoking cessation reduces blood vessel inflammation a major cause of CHD. If all smokers quit almost 3.5 million heart attacks would be prevented in the country.
Diabetes: Diabetics have double the risk of heart disease compared to non-diabetics. Sad that with the current epidemic of diabetes – a condition largely attributed to lifestyle – people are classified as diabetics and non-diabetics! People with both forms of diabetes are at risk, but people with type 2 diabetes (a condition of elevated blood sugar levels creating insulin resistance, insulin is needed to metabolize sugar) are especially vulnerable. By adopting a healthier lifestyle: weight management, exercise, eating heart healthy foods, you can help lower sugar levels. Controlling blood sugar would prevent 4.8 million heart attacks and 600,000 strokes annually.
Related Article: 6 Surprising Heart Risk Raisers
Stress: It is not known exactly why stress elevates a persons risk of CHD, but it plays an important role. Stress is the way your body and mind react to demands and changing circumstances. It’s any force that causes us strain. Stress, unfortunately, is a part of life. Too much stress is a killer. Stress contributes not only to heart disease, but also causes ulcers, irritable bowel disorders, body pain, chronic fatigue, sleeping disorders, and other problems.
Stress can begin to be controlled by incorporating the following: living in the present moment, getting adequate sleep and rest, meditation or other relaxation techniques, and, as always, exercise.
Heart disease continues to take a deadly toll in terms of lives lost and damaged. Its economic cost is also enormous The cost of heart disease is more than $500 billion annually in the United States and Canada. The good news is that it is never too late to make positive changes to reduce your risk of heart disease. The number 1 taker of lives is also almost totally controllable…within our power to tame, naturally. You can catch the thief that comes in the night. That truly is health empowering.
Related Article: 7 Healthy Foods For Your Heart