Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease claims 1 in every 4 deaths. This brings the number to a total of 659,000 deaths each year. With this statistic in mind, it is important to know how to prevent heart disease.
Heart disease is a lifestyle disease, meaning how you live your life, including what you eat, may increase or lower your risk.
For instance, a diet high in trans fats, cholesterol, and saturated fats has been linked to heart disease and other related complications.
Likewise, lifestyle habits can naturally promote heart health and lower your risk of developing heart disease. That’s precisely what you’re about to find out.
What is heart disease?
Heart disease refers to any condition that affects the cardiovascular system, including:
Arrhythmias – An abnormal heart rhythm.
Cardiomyopathy – A condition that affects the heart muscles, making it difficult to pump blood to the rest of the body. In severe cases, cardiomyopathy can lead to heart failure.
Atherosclerosis – Arterial hardening caused by plaque buildup within the arteries. Plaque consists of cholesterol and other substances. Major risk factors include high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, obesity, diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, and physical inactivity.
Heart infection – occurs when disease-causing pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, or parasites make their way to the heart. Heart infections may also be chemically induced. This causes inflammation in the inner lining of the heart, muscles, valves, and membranes, causing the heart to function abnormally.
Congenital heart defects – Structural defects present from birth.
Coronary artery disease (CAD) – The common cause of heart disease in the United States. It’s also known as coronary heart disease or ischemic heart disease.
It’s caused by plaque buildup within the arteries, including those supplying the heart (coronary arteries). Over time, plaque buildup causes partial narrowing or total blockage of the arteries supplying the heart, causing a heart attack.
What are the symptoms of heart disease?
The symptoms are very subtle and often develop when one is already having an attack for a specific heart condition.
For instance, someone experiencing a heart attack, which correlates with heart disease, may present with one or more symptoms such as chest pain or tightness, pain on the neck, arms (especially left arm), and upper back, shortness of breath, dizziness, extreme fatigue, anxiety, abnormal heartbeat, heartburn, indigestion, and nausea or vomiting.
In most cases, until some of these symptoms show up, you could never tell that person had a heart condition. That’s exactly why you need to factor in healthy lifestyle measures to help lower your risk of developing heart disease as much as possible.
How to prevent heart disease?
Lifestyle choices are the main influencers in promoting a healthy heart. The best ones include:
1. Maintaining a good diet
Diet is essential in the prevention of heart disease regardless of a genetic predisposition. Eliminating foods that increase your risk, such as those high in cholesterol like animal foods or those rich in sugar or containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, avoiding refined carbohydrates as well as alcoholic beverages while incorporating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and omega-3 rich foods such as chia seeds, flaxseeds, and avocado may help prevent heart disease.
2. Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight or obese puts you at risk of developing high blood pressure or diabetes, leading to heart disease.
That being said, most overweight people that lose weight tend to gain it back. This is often due to unsustainable weight loss methods such as restricted diets, focusing on rules rather than cultivating sustainable habits, and having a wrong mindset, like thinking a particular diet will provide a quick fix instead of thinking long-term.
Nonetheless, different healthy strategies have scientifically been proven to keep the weight off for good.
Exercise may help you burn extra calories and increase your body metabolism, causing you to burn fat and lose weight. Research further shows that exercising for 30 minutes a day or 200 minutes each week after weight loss may help maintain the weight.
Eating enough protein:
Since protein reduces appetite and promotes early satiety, it will prevent overeating and, thus, overconsumption of calories that may cause you to regain weight.
Besides, protein requires a certain amount of energy to be broken down. That means protein can also help you burn more calories.
Being mindful of your carbohydrate intake:
Too many refined carbs such as white pasta, white bread, fruit juices, and soft drinks are very high in sugar which triggers insulin, the fat-storing hormone. Following a low-carb diet rich in whole foods in addition to vegetables, sufficient protein, and healthy fats will help you keep the weight off without a feeling of starvation.
Others include getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and being consistent with your healthy habits.
3. Managing risk factors
Risk factors such as diabetes and high blood pressure should be addressed to lower the risk of developing heart disease.
Some heart disease prevention measures for diabetes include regular exercise, following a healthy diet, and getting regular checkups.
For someone with high blood pressure, it’s always good to exercise regularly, follow a healthy diet, avoid stress, consider proper weight management, avoid smoking, limit alcohol consumption, and reduce sodium intake.
4. Stress management
There’s a strong link between high-stress levels and heart disease. Researchers believe high levels of the stress hormone cortisol can increase blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol, and blood sugar, thus increasing your risk for heart disease.
Some effective ways to manage stress include taking care of yourself, talking to others, making time to unwind, connecting with others, recognizing when you need more help, avoiding drugs and alcohol, and connecting with your community or faith-based groups and organizations
Conclusion on how to prevent heart disease:
Heart disease refers to any condition that affects the cardiovascular system.
This often occurs due to poor lifestyle choices, including a bad diet, sedentary lifestyle, poor stress management, smoking, and inability to control high-risk conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
While there are different types of heart disease, coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, mainly because it’s a silent killer, often showing no symptoms until an attack occurs.
This calls for prompt measures to lower your risk and promote heart health. Some things you can do include following a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress, and addressing common conditions that increase your risk.
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