Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for men and women, but there are things you can do to help lower your risk. While genetics and family history do play a role, so do poor lifestyle choices and practicing daily healthy habits could mean the difference between life and death. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies who explained what things help ward off deadline heart conditions and what to know about heart disease. As always, please consult your physician for medical advice. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
What to Know About Heart Disease
Dr. Mitchell says, "Heart disease is a general term used to describe various conditions that affect the heart. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and it is a significant health concern worldwide. There are many different types of heart disease, and each type can affect the heart in different ways. For example, some types of heart disease can lead to heart attacks, while others may cause arrhythmias or other heart problems. Heart disease can be caused by several factors, including genetics, lifestyle choices, and environmental factors. While there is no one definitive cause of heart disease, being aware of the risk factors for heart disease can help you make informed decisions about your health. Taking steps to prevent heart disease, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, can help you reduce your risk of developing this serious condition."
Limit Your Fat Intake
"A healthy diet is essential for many reasons," Dr. Mitchell reminds us. "It can help you maintain a healthy weight, have more energy, and reduce your risk of heart disease. One way to reduce your risk of heart disease is to limit the amount of fat in your diet. Fat is a nutrient that helps your body absorb vitamins and minerals. However, too much fat can increase your cholesterol levels, leading to heart disease. There are two types of cholesterol: LDL and HDL. LDL cholesterol is the "bad" type of cholesterol that can clog your arteries. HDL cholesterol is the "good" type of cholesterol that helps remove LDL cholesterol from your streets. To reduce your risk of heart disease, you should aim to eat less than 30% of calories from fat. By eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy products, you can do this. You should also limit the amount of saturated and trans fat you eat. Saturated fat is found in animal products such as meat and cheese. Trans fat is found in processed foods such as crackers, cookies, and cakes. By limiting the amount of fat in your diet, you can help reduce your risk of heart disease."
Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables
Dr. Mitchell shares, "Eating healthy can reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer and incorporating plenty of fruits and vegetables is an important part of a healthy diet. Fruits and vegetables are a good source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. They are low in calories and fat, making them an ideal food choice for people who are trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Including them as part of a healthy diet can also help to reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Studies have shown that people who eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of developing heart disease than those who do not eat these foods. This may be because fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that protect the heart and help to reduce cholesterol levels. They also contain fiber, which can help to lower blood pressure and improve blood sugar control. Therefore, including plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet is a critical way to reduce your risk of developing heart disease."
Dr. Mitchell states, "Exercise has countless benefits for overall health, but it is essential for heart health. Physical activity helps to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by maintaining a healthy weight, improving cholesterol levels, and lowering blood pressure. Furthermore, exercise helps strengthen the heart muscle and prevent the formation of plaques in the arteries. For these reasons, it is essential to get plenty of exercise to reduce the development of cardiovascular disease. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week. This can include walking, biking, gardening, or swimming. Remember that even small changes can make a big difference in your heart health."
Dr. Mitchell says, "Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, and heart disease is one of the most common smoking-related illnesses. Every year, smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans. That's about 1 in 5 deaths. Cigarette smoking causes about 1 out of every three cancer deaths in the US. It's also responsible for most COPD deaths. Smokers are 2 to 4 times more likely than nonsmokers to develop coronary heart disease, leading to a heart attack. Smokers are also at greater risk for stroke and peripheral vascular disease. Quitting smoking reduces your risk for all of these diseases and lung cancer and other cancers. Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do for your health — no matter how long or how much you've been smoking. Quitting will almost immediately reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Within 2 to 5 years after quitting, your risk for stroke decreases to about that of a nonsmoker. And ten years after you quit, your risk of dying from lung cancer drops by half. Quitting smoking is hard, but it's worth it. You can quit smoking with the help of nicotine replacement therapy or prescription. Smoking is a significant risk factor for heart disease, so quitting is essential for preserving your heart health."
Manage Your Stress Levels
According to Dr. Mitchell, "Managing stress is essential for many reasons, but it is especially critical for heart health. When we experience chronic stress, our bodies go into fight-or-flight mode, which releases a flood of hormones and chemicals that prepare us to confront or flee from a perceived threat physically. This stress response can be lifesaving in the face of actual danger, but when everyday worries constantly trigger it, it takes a toll on our health. Over time, chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Managing stress can help to reduce the risk of these conditions and improve overall heart health. There are many different ways to manage stress, but some effective methods include exercise, relaxation techniques, and spending time with loved ones. By finding an effective way to manage stress, we can reduce our risk of developing heart disease and improve our overall health. Stress can contribute to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems, so it's essential to find healthy ways to relax and de-stress."
Maintain a Healthy Weight
"Being overweight or obese is a significant risk factor for developing heart disease," says Dr. Mitchell. "There are several reasons why excess weight increases the risk of heart disease. First, extra weight puts additional strain on the heart muscle, making it work harder and increasing the risk of damage. Second, fat tissue produces hormones and other substances that can increase inflammation levels and contribute to plaque development in the arteries. Finally, being overweight increases the likelihood of developing diabetes, another major risk factor for heart disease. The good news is that even modest weight loss can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing heart disease, so it's essential to keep your weight in check."
Limit Your Alcohol Intake
Dr. Mitchell explains, "Alcohol is known to have many adverse effects on the human body, including liver damage and an increased risk of cancer. However, alcohol can also have a detrimental impact on the heart. Heavy drinking is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease. When consumed in excess, alcohol can cause high blood pressure, arrhythmias, and cardiomyopathy. This damage to the heart can lead to several serious health problems, including stroke and heart attack. Therefore, it is essential to limit alcohol intake to reduce the chance of developing deadly heart disease. Drinking too much alcohol can damage your heart and lead to cardiovascular problems."
Get Enough Sleep
Dr. Mitchell says, "According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three adults does not get enough sleep regularly. This can lead to several health problems, including an increased risk for heart disease. When you don't get enough sleep, your body doesn't have a chance to rest and repair itself. This can lead to cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure and heart attacks. In addition, sleep deprivation can cause changes in hormones that increase your appetite, leading to weight gain and obesity. Getting enough sleep is essential for maintaining a healthy weight and preventing heart disease. The CDC recommends that adults get at least seven hours of sleep per night. Making sure you get enough rest is one of the best things you can do for your heart health. Sleep is essential for overall health, and insufficient sleep has been linked with an increased risk of heart disease."