Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and a major cause of disability, yet many people mistakenly believe that “heart failure” just means a person’s heart gave out. In actuality, heart failure occurs when a weakened heart struggles to pump oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to the body’s cells. As a result the cells are improperly nourished, which the body exhibits through fatigue and shortness of breath.
“There are many factors that can increase the risk of heart disease,” shared Dr. John SmithKristina Bogar, Chief Medical Officer at Ascend Medical. “These factors include age, sex, race, and family history.”
African American men over the age of 45 and African American women over the age of 55 have the greatest risk of heart failure, but anyone is at risk of developing heart disease.
Here are some ways you can decrease your risk of heart disease:
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Obesity can increase the risk of heart disease because being overweight is linked with other heart disease risk factors, such as high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Controlling your weight can lower these risks.
Exercising regularly not only strengthens your heart and improves blood circulation, it can help you maintain a healthy weight, lower cholesterol, and decrease blood pressure, lowering your risk of heart disease.
Avoid Smoking and/or Using Illegal Drugs
Cigarette smoking raises your blood pressure and puts you at higher risk for heart attack and stroke. The chemicals in tobacco smoke can impair the function of your heart because they harm your blood cells, altering their structure. This damage can increase your risk of atherosclerosis, a disease that causes plaque build-up in your arteries, limiting the flow of blood throughout your body.
Not only does alcohol add extra calories to your diet, which can increase your weight, drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. The CDC recommends that men should have no more than two alcoholic drinks per day, and women should not have more than one.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Limiting your intake of saturated fats, foods high in sodium, and added sugars—such as fast food or prepackaged meals can help decrease your risk of heart disease because these foods can raise blood pressure and cholesterol. Substitute these foods with plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.
Regularly Monitor and Control Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. It is important to get your blood pressure checked regularly – at least once a year for most adults, and more often if you have high blood pressure. Take steps, including lifestyle changes, to prevent or control high blood pressure.
Check Your Cholesterol
High levels of cholesterol can clog your arteries and raise your risk of coronary artery disease and heart attack. Lifestyle changes and medicines (if needed) can lower your cholesterol. Triglycerides are another type of fat in the blood. High levels of triglycerides may also raise the risk of coronary artery disease, especially in women.
Some studies have noted a relationship between coronary heart disease risk and stress in a person’s life that may affect the risk factors for heart disease and stroke. For example, people under stress may overeat, start smoking or smoke more than they otherwise would. Research has even shown that stress reaction in young adults predicts middle-age blood pressure risk.
Having diabetes doubles your risk of diabetic heart disease. That is because over time, high blood sugar from diabetes can damage your blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart and blood vessels. So, it is important to get tested for diabetes, and if you have it, to keep it under control.
Get Enough Sleep
Failure to get enough sleep can raise your risk of high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes—all of which can increase your likelihood of developing heart disease. Most adults require between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night.
Keep your heart in good health by choosing a primary care system that revolves around you. We offer membership-based healthcare services, mobile diagnostics, and 24/7, on-demand virtual visits to address all of your health concerns – exactly when and where it’s convenient for you. Book your same day appointment today!