The human heart is an amazing organ that weighs less than a pound and beats about 100,000 times every day (over 2.5 million times in a lifetime). Unfortunately, a sedentary lifestyle and the easy availability of unhealthy processed food can interfere with the normal heart function. The fact that heart disease is the #1 cause of death in the Western World is sufficient reason to be concerned about the state of your heart. Are you heart healthy?
The risk factors for heart disease can be divided into unmodifiable risk factors that you cannot do much about and modifiable risk factors which can be controlled to improve heart health.
Some unmodifiable risk factors include:
- Age: The risk of getting heart disease increases with age.
- Sex: Prior to menopause women have lower risk of heart disease.
- Family history: Genetics may contribute to the development of heart disease.
Modifiable risk factors include:
- High blood pressure: Having high blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
- High cholesterol: Consuming foods that contain too much of LDL (bad cholesterol) can cause buildup of plaque in your arteries leading to heart disease.
- Diabetes: According to the American Heart Association, about 65% of diabetics die of some form of heart disease.
- Being overweight or obese: Being overweight makes you prone to developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes – all risks factors for heart disease.
- Smoking: The ill-effects of smoking include irregular heartbeat, increased heart rate, tightening of arteries, and increased blood pressure.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Like any other muscle, the heart needs exercise to remain in good condition. Simple exercises such as a brisk walk for 30 minutes every day can greatly improve heart health.
In addition, certain factors such as stress and excessive alcohol consumption can contribute to increasing the risk for heart disease.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle is the best way to keep your heart healthy. This would involve quitting smoking, consuming more fruits and vegetables, eating less salt, replacing unhealthy fats (trans fats and saturated fats) with healthy fats (unsaturated fats), optimizing blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, controlling diabetes, being more active, and learning relaxation techniques to successfully manage stress.
To find out more about your risk for heart disease, make an appointment with your doctor for a heart checkup.