Heart Health Awareness: What Are We Doing Wrong?

Your heart works hard every second as it pushes blood throughout your body. It pumps while you work out, sleep, and even while you read this on your computer screen. As vital as the heart is to one’s health, it’s quite easy to overlook issues that may affect one of your body’s major body organs.

Heart disease occurs when your heart and blood arteries do not function properly, and it encompasses conditions such as heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia).

Several health issues, as well as your lifestyle, age, and family history, can all increase your risk of heart disease. These are known as risk factors. A person may have at least one of these risk factors for cardiovascular disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. 

Some risk factors for heart disease, like age or family history, are uncontrollable. You can, however, take actions to reduce your risk and prevent heart attacks by altering the rest of the factors. Fortunately, several efficient healthy strategies are at your disposal, which can increase your defense against heart disease.

Developing Awareness is Key to Heart Disease Prevention

As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death and disability. It is estimated that someone dies of heart disease every 36 seconds. Heart disease claims the lives of over 600,000 Americans each year or over a quarter of all U.S. deaths.

High cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and lifestyle factors, such as poor diet, obesity, inactivity, alcohol, and cigarettes, can put people at risk for heart disease. 

Because a person’s risk for heart disease can stem from genetics, family medical history helps determine someone’s risk for this condition. The effects and combinations of common genetic and environmental variables that lead to heart disease in a family can be traced when you undergo a family medical history check.

A higher risk of premature heart attacks has been linked to some hereditary disorders. Familial hypercholesterolemia is a very common condition that causes high amounts of “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol) from birth. About one in every 500 Americans is born with this disorder.

The burden of heart disease for people with hypercholesterolemia and their family members can be reduced if this problem is detected early. Genetic testing to provide personal risk estimations for heart disease could be valuable in the future, although this method has yet to be rigorously verified. 

Taking actions to prevent and control variables that place people at higher risk can lessen the likelihood of acquiring cardiovascular disease, not to mention increasing your health insurance coverage. 

Individuals can help avoid heart disease by eating a nutritious diet, staying in shape, exercising regularly, limiting alcohol consumption, and not smoking. They and their families can also use tools, like the My Family Health Portrait, to collect and record information about their family’s medical history and share it with their doctors.

7 Unhealthy Habits that Can Lead to Heart Disease

1- Smoking

Even though it is widely known that smoking is one of the three major risk factors for heart disease, it still accounts for nearly one-third of all heart disease deaths. When you smoke a cigarette, you inhale over 5,000 hazardous chemicals that get into your body.

Carbon monoxide is one of these compounds. Carbon monoxide reduces the amount of oxygen in your red blood cells, causing cardiovascular damage. It also raises the level of cholesterol in your arteries, which is yet another risk factor for heart disease.

Some people use e-cigarettes (also known as “vaping”) to quit smoking cigarettes. However, evidence indicating that e-cigarettes are a healthier alternative is still inconclusive. When using an e-cigarette, you are still exposing yourself to toxins, nicotine, and other pollutants that are harmful to your health.

Quitting smoking completely is the most effective approach to reduce your risk. While this is difficult, it is far more burdensome to live with heart disease or suffer a heart attack.

2- Excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages

Although a glass of wine with dinner or a beer with friends occasionally is fine, excessive drinking is harmful to your heart. It can raise your blood pressure, which can cause damage to your heart and arteries over time, increasing your risk of heart disease.

High levels of triglycerides, the most common type of fat in the body, can also be due to alcohol’s calories. When you consume too many, your body converts them to triglycerides, which increases your risk of heart disease. The calories in alcohol can also induce weight gain, which adds to obesity — another risk factor for heart disease.

3- Being stressed out too often

It’s easy to be overwhelmed when you’re overworked or trying to balance your and your children’s busy schedules. In addition to being taxing, stress has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Stress can raise your blood pressure, strain your heart and arteries unnecessarily, and cause potentially lasting damage. It can also lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as overeating, binge drinking, and smoking, which are all bad for your heart. 

Not only will taking some efforts to lessen your stress levels benefit your heart, but you will also feel better. Some stress is unavoidable, and it’s natural to be more concerned regarding different life aspects. Still, it pays to try to reduce the amount of stress you face daily. Your heart will thank you for that.

4- Physical inactivity

You may not be as active as you should be for a variety of reasons. It might be challenging to keep to a workout plan if you don’t have enough time or can’t find an activity that you enjoy.

However, regular exercise is critical to protecting your heart health. Only 150 minutes per week—or 20 minutes daily—of moderate-intensity physical activity (such as brisk walking or riding a bike) can lower your cholesterol levels and blood pressure, as well as help you maintain a healthy weight. It can help strengthen your heart muscle, allowing it to pump more efficiently.

It’s better to do a little rather than nothing when it comes to fitness. Start slowly if you’re not currently highly active. Find ways to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. Make exercising enjoyable,  as well. You may struggle to be consistent if it’s dull, causing you to dread working out. There are numerous ways to exercise every day. Determine what works best for you and make it a habit.

5- Unhealthy eating habits

A healthy diet can significantly help reduce your risk of heart disease. Since the food you eat directly impacts risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, and being overweight, you can improve how well your heart performs by keeping track of what you eat and how much you eat. 

Joining your buddies for dinner or grabbing a pizza on the way home from a late shift might be exciting. Your heart, on the other hand, is likely to suffer from your poor dietary choices.

Going out for dinner doesn’t mean you can’t eat a heart-healthy diet. However, you can do a few basic things to make it healthier. Moderation is the key to eating a healthy diet. It’s fine to treat yourself to a good steak meal now and then, but it’s crucial to keep those occasions as heart-healthy as possible.

6- Sleep deprivation

We all require sleep, yet many do not get enough of it. You’re not alone if you’re lacking some shut-eye. According to research, more than a third of American people do not get enough sleep each night. Chronic sleep deprivation makes you more vulnerable to various health issues, ranging from diabetes to heart problems like high blood pressure and CVD.

7- Ignoring oral hygiene

What does brushing your teeth have to do with keeping your heart healthy? According to research, it may reduce the risk of heart failure. While it is unlikely that excellent oral hygiene may prevent heart failure on its own, it is nevertheless crucial. Neglecting dental hygiene can result in hazardous bacteria accumulations in your body.

Simple Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Heart Disease

1- Making good nutritional choices

One of the best ways to prevent heart problems, or any health-related problem for that matter, is having good nutrition. The food you eat can affect risk factors that you can control, such as cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity.

Try to choose food rich in nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and fiber. For reference, you can use the healthy eating pyramid to keep track of what you consume and how much you eat of it. As much as possible, choose a diet that emphasizes eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats.

2- Aiming for a healthy weight

Anyone of any age can experience obesity, so it naturally has become a real issue. According to the World Health Organization, in 2020, 39 million children under the age of 5 were either overweight or obese.

Unfortunately, obesity places you at considerable risk for certain cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks, coronary artery diseases, and related diseases that can lead to cardiovascular problems like type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and more.

The best way to control your weight is to keep yourself physically active. Remember that the heart is also a muscle that needs to be moved and worked. Thirty minutes is the recommended time spent for exercise every day. Another way is to control your calorie intake and strive to stay within a certain number of calories. This is called getting on a calorie deficit. 

3- Limiting the alcohol intake

It’s no surprise that alcohol, when regularly consumed in large amounts, can lead to different physical and even mental concerns. Drinking too much alcohol can increase blood pressure, cardiomyopathy, cancer, and stroke. Other than that, excessive alcohol consumption can easily contribute to obesity and alcoholism.

4- Start relaxing

Stress is a normal part of life, and it can be due to a lack of sleep, excessive workload, and illness. However, too much can be bad for you, and it will manifest physically. Studies suggest that elevated cortisol levels, a stress hormone, can increase blood cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure, all of which are a recipe for future heart problems.

5- Say no to smoking

According to a paper from the CDC, some chemicals in cigarette smoke cause the cells in the blood vessels to swell and inflame. This tightening can lead to many cardiovascular conditions. 

Furthermore, heavy and consistent smoking can increase the chances of plaque buildup in the arteries, which will make it difficult for the blood to pass through, blocking necessary oxygen and nutrients that the blood should transport to every part of the body. 

6- Think positive

Research shows that a positive outlook can be linked to better health, including the heart. In one study published in Health Behavior and Policy Review, researchers studied the optimism levels of more than 5,000 adults aged 52 to 84 years old. They found that those with greater optimism had twice the odds of being in tip-top cardiovascular shape than their pessimistic counterparts.

The research also found that optimists had better cholesterol and blood sugar levels than those who weren’t optimistic.

7- Your Cardiovascular Health Starts with You

If you have a problem like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes, your doctor will prescribe medication and advise you to change your lifestyle. 

But as much as regular consultations with your doctor can help you maintain your heart health, it does begin at home, where you make daily decisions that affect your heart. There are several simple yet effective techniques to ensure that your heart’s health is on the right track. Even your gadgets can be of support when you learn to utilize health features, such as the pulse oximeter on your smart device.

Your heart is always working hard for you, but by living a healthy, heart-centered lifestyle, you can make its job a little easier and a lot more efficient. Refrain from these unhealthy habits, and you’ll be doing your heart a favor. You’ll feel better and be able to maintain your wellness as you live a heart-healthy lifestyle.

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