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Heart Health 101

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Heart Health 101

When it comes to mortality rates, heart disease is the leader in this category. Statistics show that 1 in 4 deaths is attributed to heart disease and almost 1 million people die annually from it.  Some of your more common kinds of heart disease are coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, cardiac arrest, heart attack, arrhythmia, heart defects, and heart failure. Why do people get heart disease? Are they preventable? These are your most common questions people ask about the different kinds of heart disease one can get. Current statistic shows that 80% of this disease is preventable, and the remaining 20% is genetic. So what exactly causes heart disease? Leading the way are what I call the big 5- diet, stress, chronic fatigue, regular check-ups, and smoking. Obviously all of these are preventable, but the approach must be slow and steady to make that lifestyle change. I can name hundreds of ways to prevent heart disease, but I thought I would detail the most important.

  1. Diet- You simply can’t be healthy without a good diet. I like to use the 80/20 rule to make sure you indulge periodically. Some of my favorites to be included in everyone’s nutrition arsenal to ward off heart disease are- fatty fish (sardines, salmon,herring), nuts, berries, dark chocolate (the higher percent the better), veggies (broccoli, asparagus, leafy greens, tomatoes, bell peppers, garlic), flax seed, turmeric, and ginger. Variety is the spice of life, so you want to be consistently rotating different foods to get the most nutrients possible.
  2. Stress- I rank this as number 2 on my list and for good reason. In our fast-paced world today it seems like everyone is going 100 mph or faster. Sometimes it is good to stop and evaluate your day-to-day to make sure you don’t have too much stress in your life. For starters, you want to make sure you have a good hobby as your “go to.” You will need it when tough times come up, as well as that release on a daily basis. Exercise is another great way to keep stress low and you don’t have to exercise 4 hours a day to do so. Just 30 minutes daily can be enough to promote healthy serotonin levels. Slowing down across the board is another great stress reliever, and your to do list can wait another day if stress is getting the best of you. Massages are another great way to lower stress and can do wonders for an anxiety driven life that most people today live by.
  3. Create optimal sleep patterns- You could rank this one under stress on my list, but I find it is best to keep these separate due to the majority of us not getting enough. Most people are chronically sleep deprived and are operating on a less than optimal energy level. I know for myself I need 8 hours every night regardless of how busy I am, and if I am training for an event that number goes to 9. Some people take naps ( like my wife), and can get by with one in their schedule or even on weekends. Lack of sleep has been associated with high inflammation levels, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and increased heart attack risk. Sleep needs are highly individual so finding out what works best for you and and the stressors involved in your life is the smart approach.
  4. Regular check-ups- Nothing can find hidden dangers sooner than regular doctor visits. An annual blood panel check can go a long way in finding clues to what your future holds.The 2 biggest tests for future heart disease complications are C-reactive protein levels and homocysteine levels. You will also want to include the usual suspects in this blood panel – blood glucose level, A1C levels, blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels,etc. For the extreme endurance athlete and those over age 50 it might also be a good idea every few years to include an ECG, echocardiogram, stress test, and heart scan.
  5. Don’t smoke- Considering that smoking is a risk factor for EVERY disease on the planet (along with obesity), I have to include it on this list. For those that don’t smoke, just make sure you don’t start 🙂 For those that currently smoke, I recommend finding help to decrease your chances of heart disease down the road. Not only will smoking greatly increase your chances of dying sooner, it also increases your chances of living a life of morbidity. COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, congestive heart failure, atherosclerosis, and hypertension are just some of the smoking related diseases that can greatly effect your quality of life.
Mahadi Munna