February is often seen as the month of all things heart-shaped and love-related which is why it is an opportune time to celebrate American Heart Month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, taking one person every 36 seconds and over 650,000 each year. Additionally, over 6 million Americans are living with heart failure and even more have high blood pressure. While heart disease can be genetic, many things can raise your risk for cardiovascular disease. Most of these factors can be controlled and learning about them can help lower your risk. Today, the #1 rated cardiologists in Montgomery County at AMS Cardiology are sharing what causes heart disease and how to prevent it.
What Causes Heart Disease?
In order to learn how to prevent heart disease, you first must understand what causes it. Heart disease can describe a range of conditions including:
- Blood vessel disease, such as coronary artery disease
- Heart rhythm problems
- Heart defects you’re born with
- Heart valve disease
- Heart muscle disease
- Heart infection
CHD or Coronary Heart Disease occurs when a fatty buildup of plaque develops in the arteries and blood vessels that lead to the heart. The buildup blocks essential nutrients and oxygen from reaching the heart. This can cause symptoms such as chest pain, breathlessness, heart palpitations, and more. The waxy substance (known as plaque) accumulates over time from risk factors such as high blood pressure, an unhealthy diet, smoking, and lack of exercise.
Genetic Risk Factors You Cannot Change
Genetic risk factors do play a part in heart disease, but over 80% of cardiovascular disease can be prevented with proper education and action by you. Risk factors that you cannot change include:
- Race or ethnicity
- Family history
Simple lifestyle changes can impact your heart health in big ways and we’re sharing how you can prevent heart disease with these simple steps.
Quitting smoking altogether can be tough, but it’s the best thing you can do for your heart. Cigarette smoke raises blood pressure and chronic smokers have a higher risk for heart attack and stroke. It’s the most preventable cause of premature death in the United States, so if you don’t smoke, don’t start! New research also suggests puffing on e-cigarettes or vaping can also significantly increase your risk for heart attack and stroke compared to people who don’t use any tobacco products.
Know your numbers.
This includes weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Knowing these numbers can help you maintain a healthy heart. Everyone is different when it comes to weight, so speak with your physician to determine an appropriate goal weight and to understand the guidelines for blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
There are so many great benefits to physical activity including improving and strengthening your heart. Exercise can also improve mental health, as well as help to maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends five 30 minute exercise sessions once a week. This can include walking, jogging, biking, low impact exercises or swimming.
Eat a healthy diet.
A diet rich in leafy green vegetables, whole grains, berries, healthy fats, beans and seeds can influence just about every aspect of heart health, from blood pressure to cholesterol levels. Try to limit processed foods, sugary beverages and saturated fats which can increase blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol levels and inflammation, all of which increase your risk factors for heart disease.
Stress is your body’s reaction to anything that requires attention or action. Short bursts of stress can be positive, but extreme and long term stress can trigger a heart attack or stroke. To reduce stress in your life, try exercising, meditating, positive self-talk, listening to music or speaking with friends or family.
Quality sleep is so important. Everybody is different, but experts recommend an average of 6 to 9 hours of sleep per night. If you have frequent sleep problems, try incorporating a calming bedtime routine into your life. This can include reading a book, listening to music, meditating or reducing screen time.
At AMS Cardiology, our doctors and staff are here for you. We can help you take proactive and preventative measures to reduce your risks for cardiovascular disease. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.