What is the leading killer in the United States that is responsible for 1 out of every 4 deaths? (Without looking at the title or header 😉)
Not car accidents….
It is heart disease that kills over 600,000 people every year. This number is actually declining as it was as high as 1 million during the 1960s-1980s. Thanks to modern medicine and new information, we are taking this number down.
However, it is still responsible for killing 25% of the American population each year.
What is heart disease exactly?
Think of the heart as a high-pressure pump that makes sure all the blood goes where it needs to go. The whole system can break apart if either the pump or the plumbing breaks down.
Heart disease is any condition that damages/blocks blood vessels, making it harder for the heart to pump properly.
Now the ones that are commonly blocked are the blood vessels that feed blood to the heart (coronary blood vessels), the blood vessels that go from our heart to other organs (arteries), and the blood vessels that return blood from the organs to the heart (veins).
If the coronary arteries are blocked up, the heart gets no blood and you have a heart attack.
If the arteries are blocked up (say the ones to the brain) you have a stroke or a “brain attack”
If the veins are blocked up (say the ones in our legs with a blood clot) that clot can return back to the heart and then go to another organ like the brain causing a stroke.
THE POINT IS HEART DISEASE IS A KILLER
There are some risk factors we have no control over like our increasing age, our sex, or the genetics we are born with.
However, there are plenty of risk factors that we can control to make sure heart disease does not take us away from our friend and families prematurely.
Risk Factors for Heart Disease
- Genetics (genes for high cholesterol and blood vessel disease)
- Alcohol Abuse
- High Blood Pressure
How to Reduce Your Risk for Heart Disease
Having a Heart-Healthy Diet
Saturated fats are the “bad” fats that stick to our blood vessel walls causing the formation of plaques that can break off and cause a heart attack or stroke. Eat less than 77g of fat per day and make sure you avoid saturated, trans-fats, or hydrogenated vegetable oil products like fried foods, cakes, cookies, and milkshakes.
Also, watch your salt intake!
Water naturally follows salt, so if there is too much salt in your body, then you will more water retained in your blood vessels causing high blood pressure that damages vessels and makes your heart work harder.
Think that high-pressure plumbing system where the pipes break down….
Eat foods that have less than 120mg of salt per serving to keep under the daily allotment 2,300 mg.
READ THOSE NUTRITION LABELS PEOPLE
Maintain a Good Weight
There is no standard weight that applies to everyone. There are just too many different body types to make only one or two weights acceptable.
However, a “good” weight is a weight where you feel energized and comfortable. Also, one where you do not have a huge gut 😉
It is possible to have “fat” skinny people who are unhealthy while having “fit” fat people who are much healthier as long as their diet and activity level is better.
Overall, the BMI is the best tool we have to access weight so make sure you are regularly getting it checked by a health care professional.
Maintain a Good Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is the same thing as having too high pressure in your plumbing. It can cause the pipes to break sooner and the pump to work harder if it is not lowered.
The same thing happens in your body if you are obese, smoking, or living a sedentary lifestyle.
Luckily high blood pressure can be prevented and reversed by keeping a healthy weight with proper lifestyle choices.
Still, get your blood pressure checked by your medical professional to determine if you need medication or additional treatment. Some signs of high blood pressure include:
- Heart Palpitations
- Chest Pain
- Vision Changes
- Less urination
- Shortness of Breath
Getting active I would say is harder than eating a proper diet. Most people are very busy with work and family responsibilities among other things. It can be hard to get the American Heart Association, recommended 150 minutes of moderate (jogging, cycling) or 75 minutes of intense (swimming, running) activity per week. Also, two days should be spent working muscles in weight based training.
Well, I am here to tell you that I have the same problem!!! After an 8-12 hour day, I struggle to find the energy to go workout but I have a solution!
Are you ready…. it is to suck it up and develop the discipline to go.
After a while, very few people like the repetitive nature of weight lifting or running another mile. However, it is necessary for a healthy life.
I do not care if you have to go through the motions or do it at half speed, just get those reps done!
Whenever your heart rate is above 100 beats per minutes, the heart and the blood vessels experience optimal flow. This flow helps keeps the elasticity of blood vessels while preventing plaques from forming.
Make the effort to walk around the block in the evening or to take the family hiking on the weekend or join your friend in that weekly fitness class.
Smoking does not directly kill people but it is a risk factor for A LOT of other diseases that kill.
Heart disease (#1), Cancer (#2), Chronic respiratory diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema (#4), and stroke (#5).
Smoking makes your blood vessels very stiff, reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood, and makes it more difficult for your heart to pump. According to the Heart Foundation, smoking increases your risk of the following.
- Heart attack – 2x higher
- Stroke – 3x higher
- Angina – 20x higher
- Peripheral Arterial Disease – 5x higher
Quitting can be hard but it is the right choice!
For many people, it takes multiple attempts to quit so do not give up! For resources quitting here is the Quit Website with many resources.
Type 2 diabetes is an acquired disease of the blood vessels and pancreas. The pancreas cannot lower blood sugars effectively due to chronically bad diet causing high levels of sugar in the blood. Those elevated sugars damage both the blood vessels and nerves like the ones in the toes and feet.
Preventing type 2 diabetes is about maintaining a healthy weight. Obesity is the biggest risk factor for developing this disease. So watch your diet and get plenty of exercise.
Now if you have type 2 diabetes, it can be reversed!
As I said you can acquire it but you can also dismiss it. The first thing is to regularly see your doctor for monitoring of your disease progression by getting blood sugar and Hemoglobin A1c levels.
The next is to have control of your blood sugar by insulin or other medications to ensure we are treating hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).
After that, with proper diet and exercise, you can go back to living a disease free life and prevent heart disease in the future.
Hope you found the information useful, Be Happy and Healthdy 😊
CDC. Disparities in Adult Awareness of Heart Attack Warning Signs and Symptoms—14 States, 2005. MMWR. 2008;57(7):175–179.
CDC. Million Hearts™: strategies to reduce the prevalence of leading cardiovascular disease risk factors. United States, 2011. MMWR 2011;60(36):1248–51.
Dr. CHRISTIAN-JEVON BRAMWELL MD
Christian Bramwell, MD uses his own weight loss story as teaching for people struggling with their own weight through blogging, teaching, and writing. His mission in life is to promote health and education, that is why he has chosen to be a family physician and found his own nonprofit Project RAK based on education and empowerment.
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