February is American Heart Month, making it the perfect time to discuss the leading cause of death of Americans, heart disease. Heart disease is a major health crisis, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention one person dies every 37 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease. That means that about 647,000 Americans die from heart disease every year. This represents almost 25% of all U.S. deaths. There are many risk factors that can increase your chances of developing heart disease, some of them you can’t control, but luckily, many of them you can.
If you have a family history of heart disease, your risk may be higher. William Kraus, M.D, a preventive cardiologist and research scientist at Duke University stated “Both the risk of heart disease and risk factors for heart disease are strongly linked to family history.”
Certain ethnicities are at a greater risk for heart disease. According to a recent spotlight in 2019 by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, African Americans were the most likely to die from heart disease followed by Caucasians, Hispanics or Latinos, and lastly, Asian Americans.
As you age, your risk for developing heart disease increases. According to the National Institute on Aging, your risk of developing coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, or heart attack go up significantly after the age of 65. This is due to the impact that aging has on your heart and blood vessels.
Regular visits to your family doctor can help you lower your risks of heart disease. It’s especially important if you have a family history of cardiovascular disease to share this with your physician as soon as possible. Another benefit or regularly visiting your doctor is to be screened and treated for any chronic illnesses such as diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure.
According to Trust for America’s Health one in three Americans are obese. That is one third of the American population. Being obese increases your chance of many serious health problems such as type two diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke, all of which are related to heart disease. Maintaining a healthy weight can help you lower your risk of developing these conditions.
High blood pressure, often referred to as the "silent killer" due to the lack of symptoms is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease. Often, you can lower your blood pressure with lifestyle changes, but sometimes medication is needed to keep your blood pressure in check.
Your liver naturally produces cholesterol, but it also comes from common foods such as eggs, milk and meat. When there is too much cholesterol in your blood, it builds up in the walls of your arteries, increasing your risk of a heart attack. Because high cholesterol doesn’t have any symptoms, it’s important to be screened by your doctor regularly.
Untreated or unmanaged diabetes can lead to heart disease and an array of other health conditions. Adults with diabetes are nearly twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke as people without diabetes according to the NIDDK.
Smoking increases your risk of developing heart disease and heart attack significantly. Smoking damages your heart and blood vessels while nicotine is contributed to raising your blood pressure.
Excessive alcohol use raises your blood pressure and triglycerides increasing your risk of developing heart disease. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention women should limit their daily consumption to no more than one drink and men should limit their daily consumption to no more than two drinks per day.
Exercising regularly reduces your risk of heart disease and obesity. When exercised the heart can pump blood throughout the body more efficiently and with less strain. The American Heart Association recommends exercising five times per week for about thirty minutes.
According to a study by the University of Minnesota Medical School, chronic stress actually shortens your lifespan. Stress contributes to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and can result in using bad habits as a crutch to manage chronic stress such as smoking, excessive alcohol use, and overeating. Incorporating self-care into your daily routine can help you manage and reduce stress.
Although researchers are not exactly clear why they do agree that sleep is essential for a healthy heart. People who don’t get enough sleep have a higher risk of developing heart disease. According to The National Sleep Foundationthe body requires periods of deep rest otherwise certain chemicals are activated that prevent the body from regulating a normal heart rate and blood pressure. Check out these six tips to help you get a better night’s sleep.