Recent data from the American Heart Association has cardiovascular disease as the number one killer. It claims the lives of 41% of the more than 2.3 million Americans who die each year. Approximately 60 million Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease, ranging from congenital heart defects to high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries.
Last week I received a call from a woman wanting to schedule an appointment. She was upset as she had just returned from her doctor where she was informed she had high cholesterol. He had advised her to look first toward diet and lifestyle to see if she could bring it down. “I thought I was doing things right” she told me. Often, we must review the basics.
Exactly how and why heart disease originates in the body is a difficult, complex and often confusing question to answer. You can reduce your risk of heart disease by becoming aware of your risk factors- personal lifestyle habits and genetic traits that can make you more or less prone to develop a particular disease. The major risk factors over which you can exert considerable control are smoking, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, physical inactivity and obesity.
Reducing lifestyle-related risks yields great results in preventing heart disease. Review the following to see how many positive changes you can make.
- Don’t Smoke: Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death and the risk of heart attack is more than twice that of non smokers.
- Exercise: Our bodies are designed to move. Research has shown exercise improves circulation, increases oxygen uptake, better lymph circulation and therefore better immune functions and elimination of toxins.
- Stay Slim: Overweight is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of over 25. A BMI of 30 and higher (30 pounds or more overweight) is classified as obese and puts you at high risk of heart disease. To calculate your BMI, multiply your weight in pounds by 705, divide by your height in inches, then divide again by your height in inches. Note- some athletes and body builders with dense muscle mass may have a high BMI but very little body fat.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet: Eat more fresh, whole foods and fewer processed foods.
- Keep sugar and salt intake low.
- Cut back on fats: I believe our consumption of ‘bad fats’, along with sugar, is one of the major reasons America has the highest rate of heart disease in the world”. Olive and canola oil are the most stable and healthiest of oils. Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent heart disease. Good sources of omega-3 oil include salmon, herring, mackerel, tuna, sardines and wild trout.
- Keep your Antioxidant levels high: Vitamin E, Vitamin C and beta-carotene are especially potent. Antioxidants score very high as health-promoting factors in population studies which review diet, cholesterol levels and rates of heart disease.
- Stress is a major contributor to heart disease: Mental and emotional stress cause the body to react as if it is in danger, increasing heart rate and blood pressure. There are many ways to alleviate and eliminate stress. Start today and your heart will thank you for the rest of your life.