Valentine’s Day hearts serve as a reminder of love to many; for others, they’re a reminder of an organ in need of more than a box of chocolates. Heart disease is the number one cause of death for both men and women, and often the number one topic of conversation in regards to the health of older adults. When it comes to combating heart disease, being aware of heart disease risk factors and the potential strategies for effective heart disease prevention is the first step toward a happier, healthier heart.
Heart Disease Risk Factors
The underlying cause of most heart diseases is a dangerous process involving a build-up of plaque on the walls of the arteries. Known as atherosclerosis, this build-up can lead to a number of problems as the plaque blocks blood flow to important parts of the body. Among many complications caused by atherosclerosis lies the most common type of heart disease, known as either coronary heart disease (CHD) or coronary artery disease (CAD). Significant risk factors for developing this disease and other forms of heart disease include diabetes, being overweight or obese, excessive consumption of alcohol, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a poor diet, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Heart Disease Prevention
Heart disease prevention largely boils down to making lifestyle choices that limit or avoid these heart disease risk factors. This, of course, begins with being aware whether you’re already at risk for heart disease. Have a conversation with your doctor about how you can personally approach heart disease prevention, which may include seeing if you should be tested for diabetes, or finding out if your blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels are within a healthy range. If these levels are not in a good place, your doctor can help put together a plan to change that. Such a plan should include quitting smoking if you do, maintaining a balanced diet, exercising frequently, and working towards a healthy weight, if necessary.
Over 600,000 Americans die from heart disease each year, and taking simple steps now is the best means of preventing future loss. Above all, heart disease prevention starts with acknowledgement of its danger, and continues with a conversation between you and your doctor. Get to the “heart of the matter” today with these first steps toward reducing your risk of heart disease.