American Heart Month brings awareness to heart disease and serves as a reminder of the importance of a healthy heart.
We all feel the hard work it does when we engage in physical exercise. And, behind the scenes, it's doing all sorts of work to help our body function.
Our heart pumps blood throughout our body and helps to control our heart rate and maintain our blood pressure.
It’s a vital part of our body’s functions. In saying that, heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in Americans.
Did you know 1 in 4 deaths every year in the United States is linked to heart disease?
The most common amongst them is coronary heart disease. In 2018 it was the cause of 42.1% of deaths related to heart disease in the US.
While you may be aware of the importance of your heart and how it contributes to your body, you may not be aware of the different forms of heart disease, who is most at risk, and how we can build a healthier heart.
We’ll be answering all these questions! Keep reading to learn more.
Types of Heart Disease
Heart disease is any condition that affects the function or structure of our heart. There are several different forms of heart disease that can develop for various reasons.
Some of them include:
Heart failure - this happens when the heart muscle can't pump blood as efficiently
Structural heart disease - abnormalities in the structure of the heart that can be present at birth or develop later in life
Coronary artery disease - caused by the build-up of plaque that narrows or blocks blood flow through the arteries
Heart rhythm disorders (arrhythmias) - there are different types of heart rhythm disorders. But, they all cause irregular heartbeats
These are just a few forms of heart disease - there are many others. You can see a more extensive list provided by Mayo Clinic here.
Who is most at risk?
There are many factors that can affect your risk for heart disease including:
- Family history
- Health conditions
Some of these factors we have no control over - such as age and family history.
And, our health conditions can vary. Some are controllable and others aren't.
Here are some common health conditions that can increase our risk of heart disease:
Unhealthy blood cholesterol levels - our liver produces enough cholesterol for what our body needs, but we also get cholesterol from the foods that we eat. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol - also known as “bad” cholesterol can cause plaque buildup in our arteries.
Obesity - higher “bad” (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower “good” (HDL) cholesterol levels are both linked to excess body fat. Obesity can result in diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
High blood pressure - this happens when the pressure of your blood in your blood vessels and arteries is higher than normal.
Diabetes - when you have diabetes, your body can't make enough insulin or it can’t use the insulin you already have effectively - sometimes it can’t do either well. Insulin helps move sugar (glucose) from the food you eat to your body's cells. When you have diabetes, it can cause sugar to build up in the blood - creating a higher risk for heart disease.
Our lifestyle also contributes to our risk level for heart disease.
Tobacco, alcohol, stress levels, physical inactivity, and our diet can all affect our risk.
But, our lifestyle choices are something we do have control over. You might not be able to reverse your aging, change your family tree, or even cure a certain health condition.
But most of us are capable of exercising a little more and changing up our diet.
Tips For A Healthy Heart
Just as you can go to the gym and eat nutritiously to grow your muscles and be healthier, there are also things you can do to help make your heart healthy and strong.
Many of these tips will improve your overall health, but they can also have an impact on your cholesterol, blood pressure, and body weight. In return, creating a healthier heart.
Diet - a healthy diet is crucial in developing a healthier heart. Do your best to stay away from fast foods, trans fat, refined carbohydrates, sugary drinks, and beverages. And, try to stick to a diet that includes lots of fruit, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, poultry, and fish.
Physical exercise - getting any form of physical exercise will do lots of good for your heart. It reduces stress, inflammation, and blood pressure. It also helps strengthen muscles which improves their ability to draw oxygen from your blood. Exercise is also a key component in maintaining a healthy body weight.
Manage stress - stress can contribute to high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. You can manage stress through exercise, breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, or even journaling. The important thing is to find something you enjoy and stick to it.
Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke - smoking damages your heart and your blood vessels. Quitting can reduce your risk for heart disease even in as little as a year.
Drink alcohol in moderation - Heavy drinking causes conditions that can lead to heart disease such as stroke, heart failure, and higher blood pressure.
Closing Thoughts - American Heart Month
It’s evident that heart disease is a serious problem affecting many Americans.
Some people are more at risk than others, and there are factors that affect our heart health that we have little to no control over.
But, we do have control over a few things.
American Heart Month is about bringing awareness to the seriousness of heart disease. And, bringing the focus to things that we can control such as our lifestyle and choices.
So, why not start today? Start going for those daily walks or visits to the gym. Or you could even start meditating and eating a cleaner diet.
It’s all up to you!
Make sure you talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about your heart health or any of the factors that can affect it.
And, make sure to spread awareness and educate your loved ones and friends! Bring it up in conversation or you can even share this article.
Heart Health on Evidation
Interested in learning more about your heart health? Or keeping track of symptoms related to heart health?
Heart Health on Evidation is open to heart aware individuals who may be at risk for more serious conditions.
If you’re an eligible Evidation Member, you may have seen the offer already. If not, and you think you may be eligible, be sure to complete your health survey and contact us if you have any questions.
If you’re not an Evidation Member, sign up today!