Heart disease remains a debilitating condition for a lot of Americans. It is the prime cause of death in the US, according to the CDC/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Specific risk factors are associated with higher chances of heart disease. Risk factors can either be modified or simply cannot be changed. Therefore, there are two types of risk factors. Modifiable risk factors can be controlled, such as body weight. Risks you control are factors like genetics.
According to research, there's a 36% reduction in heart disease risk if you stop smoking. An additional 18% reduction results if you're eating a balanced and nutritious diet containing fruits, veggies, nuts, legumes, reduced-fat dairy products, fish, and whole grains. Along with this, there's a 12% reduction in maintaining a waistline of 37 inches or lower for women and waistline circumference of 35 inches or lower in women. There's also an 11% reduction if you're having 2 alcoholic drinks per day for men and 1 for women. Daily and weekly exercise routines on a moderate basis lead to a 3% reduction in heart disease risk. But research shows only 1% of the population follows these 5 lifestyle choices.
If people feel they need to make all the changes at once, it can be a bit intimidating to follow a strict regimen. But starting with small changes is more comfortable. The most significant impact is that if you smoke, it's time to cease doing so. If more people make these healthy lifestyle choices, the incidence of heart diseases will go down. Research shows 600K Americans died from heart disease in 2013. That means 1 in 4 individuals succumbed to heart attack, according to the CDC.
Heart disease is the cause of death for women and men. The number of people dying from coronary heart disease is 380K. This is the most common kind of heart disease caused by a blockage in the coronary artery. In America, each year, the number of heart attacks is 720K. The cost of coronary artery disease, including medications, health care services, and lost productivity is USD 108.9 billion. Heart disease, therefore, is the leading cause of death in developed countries and emerging economies alike. It is a significant cause of disability. This raises the risk of heart disease.
Risk Factors That Cannot Be Changed
Age & Gender
This is a risk of heart disease that rises, as one gets older. Men aged 45 and above, and women aged 55 and older suffer from higher risk.
Gender is a potent differentiation factor when it comes to heart disease risk. Estrogen protects women against heart diseases, but lifestyle diseases such as diabetes raise the risk of heart disease more in women than men.
Race or Ethnicity
Certain groups have a higher risk of heart attacks or cardiovascular diseases than others. African Americans are likelier to succumb to heart attack, as compared to Caucasians and whites. Hispanic Americans have the least chance of developing heart disease. While East Asians have a lower risk of developing heart attack, South Asians have higher rates in comparison.
If heart attacks and heart diseases are rampant in your genetic history or you had a close family member who developed heart disease at a young age, there's a higher chance of facing this disease.
What Can Be Done to Lower the Heart Disease Risk?
However, many things can be done to reduce the chances of getting heart disease.
#1 Control Your Blood Pressure
For heart disease, high blood pressure remains a significant risk factor. It is essential to understand the blood pressure must be regularly checked. This means at least once annually for most adults and more often if there is high blood pressure. Take steps like lifestyle changes to prevent or control blood pressure.
#2 Keep The Cholesterol Levels Under Control
Keep not just cholesterol, but triglyceride levels under control, too. High levels of cholesterol clog the arteries and lower risks of coronary artery disease and heart attacks. Lifestyle changes and medicines lower cholesterol. Triglycerides are another fat type present in the bloodstream. High levels of this fat can raise chances of coronary artery disease, more so in women.
#3 Stay At A Healthy Weight
Being obese and overweight can raise the risk of heart disease. This is because these indicators can be linked to heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, bad cholesterol, and high triglyceride levels as well as diabetes. Controlling the weight lowers these risks for heart diseases.
#4 Eat a Nutritious Diet
Try to restrict saturated fats, sodium-rich foods, and additives like sugars. Eat enough fresh fruits, whole grains, and veggies. Try diets like DASH for lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure levels. These can reduce the risk of heart disease.
#5 Get Regular Exercise
Exercise offers many benefits, such as strengthening the heart and improving circulation. This helps in maintaining a healthy weight, improving blood circulation, and increasing the strength of the heart.
This also leads to maintaining a healthy weight and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. This serves to reduce the risk of heart disease.
#6 Limit Alcoholic Intake
Drinking too much raises blood pressure. It also adds extra calories, as this causes weight gain. These factors increase the risk of heart disease. Men need to have not more than 2 alcoholic drinks per day, and women should not have more than one.
#7 Quit Smoking
Cigarette smoking raises blood pressure, putting one at a higher risk for stroke and heart disease. If one does not smoke, starting out on cigarettes is best avoided. If you do smoke, quitting lowers the risk for heart disease. One can talk with the healthcare provider for finding the best way to stop.
#8 Manage Stress
Stress is linked to heart disease in diverse ways. For starters, it boosts the blood pressure. Therefore, extreme stress can even trigger a heart attack. Some common forms of coping with stress, such as heavy drinking, overeating, and smoking cigarettes, are not suitable for your heart. Ways to manage stress include exercise, listening to music, focusing on something peaceful and calm, and meditating.
#9 Manage Diabetes
Opting for diabetes doubles the risk of diabetic heart disease. This is because high blood sugar from diabetes damages nerves and blood vessels that, in turn, impacts heart health. So, it is essential to get tested for diabetes and if detected, managed well, too.
#10 Get Enough Sleep
If there's lack of sleep, there's greater chances of high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. Most adults require anywhere between seventeen hours of sleep during the night. Ensure that you have good sleep habits. If there are frequent sleep problems, your healthcare provider needs to be contacted. A question such as sleep apnea can cause individuals to stop breathing at different points during sleep. This comes in the way of proper rest and causes heart disease. Sleep apnea is a condition that can be treated and managed. So, do consult your doctor if your sleep is disturbed due to these conditions.
#11 Don't Use Tobacco
Smoking or using tobacco is a significant risk factor for the development of heart disease. Chemicals found in tobacco damage the blood vessels and heart, causing the build-up of plaque and the narrowing of the arteries or arteriosclerosis. This leads to a heart attack ultimately.
Specifically, CO in cigarette smoke replaces oxygen in the blood. This increases blood pressure and heart rate by working harder to supply adequate oxygen. Women who resort to cigarettes and take birth control pills are at a higher risk of heart attack or stroke than those not smoking or taking birth control pills. Both of these factors can raise the chances of blood developing clots. For heart health, no degree of first, second, or third-hand smoke is safe. The more one smokes, the higher the risk. Smokeless tobacco, low-tar products, and low-nicotine cigs are just as risky. Even social smoking, or having an occasional cigarette with a friend at a bar or restaurant is dangerous and raises the risk of heart disease.
The risk of heart disease lowers after quitting cigarettes within 365 days. In a span of 15 years, the risk of coronary heart disease drops to that of a non-smoker. No matter how long or the duration of time one smokes, rewards are reaped as soon as cigarettes are left aside.
#12 Regular Workouts for 30 Minutes Per Day
Exercise should last till about 30 minutes on most days in a week. Regular, daily exercise reduces the chances of heart disease. When one combines physical activity with various lifestyle measures, such as maintaining a healthy weight, the payoff is more significant.
Physical activities help to control the weight and reduce the likelihood of other medical conditions that put a strain on the heart, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. In general, moderate exercise can help, such as walking at a brisk pace, for 30 minutes on most weekdays. As per the DHHS in the United States, 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of intense aerobic exercise, or a blend of vigorous and moderate activity can help. For more enormous health benefits, aim for 300 minutes of average aerobic or 150 minutes of strenuous exercise each week. Along with this, strength training twice or more days a week can keep heart attacks at bay.
Even smaller amounts of exercise as against these recommendations offers incredible heart benefits. If these guidelines cannot be met, try to get the health benefits from three 10-minute sessions or two 15-minute sessions most days in a week. Activities like taking the stairs as opposed to the lift, gardening or housekeeping can keep you healthy too. While one does not have to exercise too much when it comes to achieving benefits
More significant gains can be seen by increasing the frequency, duration, and intensity of workouts.
#13 Eat Heart-Health Boosting Foods
Eating a heart-healthy diet can reduce the risk of heart disease, through eating plans like DASH and the Mediterranean diet. A diet rich in fruits, wholegrains, and veggies can help in protecting the heart. A healthy diet constitutes beans, low or fat-free dairy products, lean meats, and fish.
Additionally, those wishing to reduce the risk of heart disease should avoid too much salt and sugar in the diet. Limiting the fat you consume is also important. Of the various types of fat, saturated, polyunsaturated, trans fat, and monounsaturated fats are the important ones. Avoid saturated and trans fat. Keep saturated fats t around 5 or 6 percent of daily calories. Try to keep trans fat out of the diet completely.
Primary sources of saturated fats include red meat, full-fat dairy products, coconut and palm oils.
Sources of trans fat range across bakery products, deep-fried fast foods, packaged snack foods, crackers, cookies, chips, and margarine. If the nutrition label has been termed partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated, the product contains trans fat. But, there is no need to cut fats out of the diet.
Healthy fats from plant-based vegan sources, such as olives, olive oil, nuts, avocado can help can lower bad cholesterol. Most people need to add over more vegetables and fruits to the diet, with an objective of 5-10 servings in a single day. Eating more fruits and veggies can prevent heart disease and improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improving diabetes. Eating 2 or more servings in a week of a fish like a tuna or salmon can decrease chances of heart disease.
Following a healthy diet also means limiting alcoholic intake. For women of all ages and men above 65 years of age, it would mean up to one drink. Up to two drinks per day will be for men aged 65 and younger. One drink is defined as 12 ounces or 355 ml of beer, 5 ounces or 148 ml of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits. At a moderate level, alcohol could even have a protective impact on the heart. Too much alcohol can be a real health hazard.
#14 Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being overweight, especially around the belly, increases chances of heart disease. Excess weight can cause high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes, which trigger heart disease.
Metabolic syndromes can also raise the risk of heart disease. Specifically, abdominal fat, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and a massive amount of triglycerides increase chances of heart disease. One way to calculate the weight is through the use of BMI/Body Mass Index, which takes height and weight into account while assessing whether the percentage of body fat is healthy or unhealthy. A BMI of 25 or more is associated with high blood pressure, more elevated cholesterol, and increased chances of heart disease and stroke.
BMI is a great but imperfect guide to assessing heart disease risk. This is because fat weighs less than muscles, and individuals who are muscular and physically fit can have huge BMIs without additional health risks. Waist circumference can, therefore, be a useful tool to measure how much abdominal fat is aggregated in the body. Men are considered overweight if waist measurements are more than 101.60 cms, and women should watch out if waist measurements are greater than 88.9 cms.
Even small amounts of weight loss can be beneficial. Reducing the weight by 3-5 percent reduces blood-glucose levels, triglycerides, and raises the chance of diabetes. Losing more fat can even lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
#15 Get Regular Health Screenings
High blood pressure and vast amounts of cholesterol damage the heart and blood vessels. Without testing for these, you cannot be sure you do not have these conditions. Regular screening can reveal what the numbers are and what action should be taken.
Monitoring your blood pressure regularly since childhood is advisable. Blood pressure tests need to be performed once every 2 years to screen for high blood pressure as a stroke or heart disease risk factor starting at age 18. If one is 40 years of age or older, or between 18 and 39 years with a high blood pressure risk, ask for medical blood pressure readings each year. Optimal blood pressure is lower than 120/80 millimeters of mercury or mm Hg. Adults should be screened for cholesterol levels at least once every 5 years at age 18. Earlier testing is recommended if there are risk factors such as a family history of early-onset heart disease.
Diabetes screening is also advisable for detecting heart disease risk. Since diabetes is a condition associated with heart disease, being screened for diabetes may be desirable. Check with the doctor about fasting blood sugar test or even hemoglobin A1C test to check for diabetes. Based on risk factors such as being overweight or developing a family history of diabetes, early screening for diabetes may be recommended. If weight is healthy, and one does not develop other risk factors for type 2 diabetes, it is supported by the American Diabetes Association to start screening at age 45 and retest for this condition every 3 years. If there are conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, lifestyle changes may be recommended, or medications may be prescribed. Take medicines as doctors prescribe it and follow a healthy lifestyle plan.
Getting your health back on track is accessible by taking these necessary precautions. Improving cholesterol levels is essential to reducing the risk of heart diseases. Total levels of cholesterol should not be over 200. Moreover, HDL or proper cholesterol levels must be under 40 and LDL, or harmful cholesterol levels should not breach 160. Triglycerides over 150 are also an indication of heart disease risks. Cholesterol is not the only factor to consider. Doctors need to find all the potential risks. To lower cholesterol levels, though, it is essential to eat a low-cholesterol diet and control intake of saturated fats and refined sugars. Eat a diet high in fiber for the best results.
#16 Control Hypertension
Close to 50 million individuals in the US suffer from hypertension or high blood pressure. In fact, it is the most common heart disease risk factor. Healthy eating and exercise and avoiding excessive helpings of salt and sugar can stand you in good stead. Some individuals may also need medicine to control their blood pressure. If you snore or feel incredibly fatigued, getting tested for sleep apnea is essential. Treating the condition will also help to control blood pressure.
#17 Remain Active
Those who don't exercise are more likely to get heart disease and succumb to it. But those who are more active can avert this. Not just exercising, but remaining active through the day can help.
#18 Manage Your Anger
Everyone faces stress in their lives, and it is reasonable to lose your temper. But when fear and anger flare up, this can create a real problem. Managing stress and anger in healthy ways puts you back in charge.
#18 Check Your Family History for Heart Disease
Having a family history of heart attacks raises your risk. Consult your family members regarding the family's history of heart disease. Carry out a discussion with the doctor, especially if you have a genetic account of health disease.
#19 Reduce Sugar Intake
As you remove processed and refined sugars from your diet, your risk of developing heart disease decreases. According to the American Heart Association/AHA, women should have around 6 teaspoons of sugar per day and men, about 9.
#20 Know the Warning Signs Of Heart Attacks
Know the warning signs of heart diseases and heart attacks. This serves to make all the difference between death and life. Learn warning signs and symptoms for getting immediate help. Heart disease is the l cause of death in the United States, while stroke is a top cause of death. One of the undeniable contributors to this is the heart-healthy lifestyle. The lifestyle is not just the best defense against stroke and heart disease, but also your primary responsibility. By following a heart-healthy lifestyle, reduce risk factors for heart disease.
#21 Lower Cholesterol Levels
Fat lodged in the arteries is just waiting to strike. Sooner or later, it can trigger heart attacks or strokes. Reduce the intake of saturated and trans fat to regulate cholesterol levels. If diet and physical activity don't get the numbers down, medication can.
- Your total cholesterol score is calculated using the following equation: HDL + LDL + 20 percent of your triglyceride level.
- The total cholesterol score is calculated using HDL, LDL, and 20 percent of the triglyceride levels summed up. LDL or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol is bad cholesterol.
A low LDL cholesterol level is ideal for heart health.
But the LDL levels are no longer the only consideration in estimating the risk of heart diseases. According to the research conducted by the AHA/American Heart Association based on which it has issued guidelines, patients taking statins can stop worrying about cholesterol levels. Lifestyle factors like a diet high in trans fats and saturated fats can raise LDL cholesterol. On the other hand, good cholesterol is HDL or high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. With good or HDL cholesterol levels, higher levels are better. Lower levels of HDL cholesterol place one at a higher risk for heart disease. Those with high blood triglycerides also have lower HDL cholesterol. Genetic factors, obesity or sedentary habits, being overweight, prone to diabetes or hypertension are all related to lower HDL cholesterol levels.
Triglycerides are a common fat in the body. Balanced triglyceride levels vary by sex and age. A triglyceride level that is high combined with lower HDL cholesterol levels or high LDL/bad cholesterol can cause arteriosclerosis or the fatty deposits build-up in artery walls for raising the risk for heart attacks and strokes.
#22 Manage Your Lifestyle
All your decisions influence your heart health. Lifestyle changes reduce the risk of developing heart disease. Positive lifestyle choices include quitting smoking, engaging in healthy diets and adequate exercise, management of diabetes, and blood pressure.
#23 Find the Hours to Exercise
Strengthening your heart is a matter of engaging in regular activity. Just getting 5 hours of moderate exercise in a week is enough to lower the risk of heart diseases. According to a Harvard Medical School study, walking rapidly at a quick pace can reduce heart attacks and heart disease risk by 41%. Exercising for 2 to 5 hours even reduced coronary disorders from impacting the body by around 32%.
#24 Cultivate a Sense of Humor
Having a sense of humor and relaxing impacts blood vessels to function more effectively. A 2009 University of Maryland Medical Center study showed that laughing causes the blood vessel's inner lining to expand and actually increase blood circulation and flow.
#25 Meditate Regularly
Combating stress is critical for preventing heart attacks and strengthening the cardiovascular system. Meditating twice a day can lower chances of heart attack or stroke, according to a journal report published in a journal Circulation.
#26 Try Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits like grapefruit are tart, tasty fruits to reduce cholesterol, according to research. Studies show adding one grapefruit a day to the morning routine reduces fat in the blood associated with heart diseases.
#27 Regulate Intake of Sodium and Salt
Dropping additional salt from your diet is essential for building healthy and supple arteries, according to an NIH study. Research shows more than 2,300 mg per day makes arteries stiffer in individuals who remain within the guidelines.
#28 Choose Whole Grains & Ancient Grains
Whole grains help with boosting heart health but eating bread from made from ancient grains like teff, quinoa, and freekeh lower blood glucose and cholesterol levels, according to an International Journal of Food Sciences & Nutrition study. The abundance of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants promote healthy blood vessels.
#29 Relax and Take It Easy
Research by Swedish and German studies have shown going too hard and overdoing high-intensity exercise increases the risk of dying because of a heart attack or stroke. Learning to relax is essential if you want to protect your heart from stress.
#30 Try a Mediterranean Diet
If overwhelmed about what to eat, work on making your diet Mediterranean. This includes plenty of fruits, fish, wine, veggies, olive oil, and make such foods a priority. A European Heart Journal study found eating a Mediterranean diet and balancing it with Western foods lowers the risk of heart attacks, cardiovascular diseases, or stroke.
#31 Exercise Outside
For getting your heart into top shape, research studies from Johns Hopkins Medicine showed in 2017 that there is a direct association between exercising outside and excellent vitamin D levels in the blood for lowering the risk of heart attack and protecting the cardiovascular system.
#32 Load up on Fish
Reduce red meat in the diet and load up on fish to reduce heart attack. Studies from the University of Washington have found getting one serving a day is enough to slash the likelihood of dying from heart attacks by 44% among older individuals. This does not include fried fish! Baked or grilled fish is recommended.
#33 Standing Lowers Heart Disease Risk
Defy gravity and beat the tendency to be sedentary if you want to prevent a heart attack. Standing improves not only longevity but also boosts health markers. Make it a point to stand for 6 hours a day according to a Mayo Clinic study. This makes the muscles more active, lowering the rates of heart attacks and strokes. If you want to know more about standing and its benefits, understand that staying on your feet can burn calories.
#34 Add Fruits to Your Diet
Adding fresh fruit to the diet most days of the week was linked to lower frequency of heart diseases like strokes, according to a New England Journal of Medicine. The study looked at 500K individuals and found 100 grams of fruit per day was linked to a one-third drop in death from heart issues.
#35 Be Wary of Weather Trends
Lund University researchers found that if you expose yourself to extra cold air, below freezing points of around 32 degrees F/0 degrees C, the chances of having a heart attack shoot up. So, while you may be tempted to brave that snowstorm and shovel your walkway, this is not such a great idea.
#36 Lift Weights
One does not have to be a bona fide bodybuilder hitting the gym 6 times per week to get a heart-healthy benefit of pumping iron. Try to lift weights for one hour per week to lower the risk of developing chronic ailments like high blood glucose levels and high blood pressure by 17%. This is as per research by Mayo Clinic.
#37 Maintain Good Dental Health
There's a direct link between clean teeth and low incidence of heart diseases. So, why does this actually work? Going to a dentist for cleaning your teeth can lower the damage to the heart, according to Taiwanese research. Another Swedish study found fewer teeth in the mouth implied higher chances of heart attack, and those with gum infections had a 53% increase in a heart attack.
#38 Take Aspirin
One of the oldest cures for preventing heart disease is taking medicines like aspirin under a doctor's instructions. A 2016 study in PLOS ONE found heart attacks and illnesses can be lower in severity or reduce in frequency or be prevented altogether if one takes preventatives like statins and aspirins.
#39 Eat a Light Dinner
When it's holiday time or a special occasion, a heavy meal can be tough to avoid. Sticking with a light dinner, however, may be a better bet, especially if one has heart disease. Boston researchers found a single heavy meal raises the chance of heart attack by 4 times in a 2-hour window after the heavy meal.
#40 Enjoy Dark Chocolate
For chocolate lovers and dark chocolate enthusiasts, in particular, eating up to 6.7 gms of the dark chocolate may be a perfect way to protect the heart from diseases and lower the risk of heart attacks. The Journal of Nutrition study found that close to half a bar per week or 50 gms can reduce inflammation in the body, leading to a healthier heart.
#41 Enjoy Berries
Berries are incredible superfoods. Around three servings of berries per week lower the chances of suffering from a heart attack by 32 percent according to a 2013 Harvard study. Berries come enriched with flavonoids such as anthocyanins known to cut down on plaque in arteries.
#42 Eat Dinner Earlier
Don't wait till late at night to get to the final meal of the day. A U-Penn study in 2017 even caps this off at 7 pm. Researchers found those waiting around 11 pm for their last bit of food had higher body weights and increased amount of triglyceride and cholesterol in the bloodstream. Such elevated levels are markers for higher risk of heart disease.
#43 Enjoy Healthy Greens
Always go for veggies high in folic acids such as spinach, beans, and kale. This can reduce the chance of heart diseases, according to research in PLOS ONE. Specifically, the B-vitamin lowers homocysteine, a compound in the body essential for blood clotting. Higher levels lead to increased chances of a heart attack.
#44 Gorge on Pulses
To lower the higher levels of cholesterol, ensure that there are plenty of pulses like lentils, chickpeas, and beans in your dishes and diet. Researchers have found as little as three-fourths of a cup, or one serving of legumes can lower LDL cholesterol levels by 5%. This drops the risk of getting cardiovascular disease by 5 to 6 percent.
Thus, there are many ways to avert heart disease. Eating healthy foods, planning the timing of the meal, and the nutrients you consume can directly impact your heart health. Exercise is an essential aspect of having a healthy heart. Finally, the quality of sleep and your ability to combat stress and negative emotions directly impact how likely one is to develop heart disease. So, remember that heart health is in your control if you follow the right dietary and exercise precautions, and you don't overeat or skimp on sleep. Do follow these tips and strategies to boost your heart health and keep yourself fit and healthy.