Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, it does not differentiate between any racial or ethnic group resulting in almost 655,000 annual deaths. The tragedy that is cardiovascular disease kills an American every 36 seconds according to the CDC, that is 1 in every 4 deaths.
The numbers are distressing as cardiovascular diseases are manageable and preventable. Our health choices are the primary reason for these disturbing statistics. Today, we commute to work, sit on a desk all day, working eight hours a day at a stretch. The Covid19 pandemic might have changed the office routine but sitting down for work, or binge-watching TV series and movies is still a major part of lives. Regular exercise is key in avoiding heart disease; brisk walking, jogging, aerobics, dancing whatever suits you best. Do it! Make it a part of your daily routine, while it may seem difficult to take time out initially but as time passes, it will become easier and you will start to look forward to it. All you need to do is take the first step.
Another key reason for cardiovascular diseases is our diet. The amount of junk food consumed by the American public has given rise to these health issues. Regular intake of processed food, artificial sweeteners, confectionary, sodas increase the chances of heart disease. A nutritious diet comprising of fresh vegetables, fruits, water, dairy, lean meat, whole grains etc. greatly reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. It is important to remember, we are what we eat! We need to be cautious of the amount of food we eat and try to maintain a healthy weight.
Cholesterol is produced for the body in the liver but animal-based foods such as eggs, meat and milk have cholesterol which enter our body. Increased levels of cholesterol levels increase the risk of heart disease. Since elevated levels of cholesterol show no symptoms, it is necessary to get your levels checked at least every five years so appropriate treatment can be initiated to reduce levels.
Excessive alcohol consumption can cause increased blood pressure, stroke, or heart attack apart from multiple other health issues. It can also result in cardiomyopathy, a disorder that affects the muscle around the heart. Limiting alcohol intake to moderate levels will reduce the chances of cardiovascular disease. Alcohol consumption is also known to contribute to high blood pressure and weight gain which further increases the risk of heart disease.
For every smoker out there, if you want to save your heart, you must stop smoking. Smoking releases chemicals in our blood stream which thicken our blood causing clots inside the veins and arteries. These clots can cause blockage which can cause a heart attack or even death. Quitting smoking is the only way to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to the CDC, ‘Smokers who quit start to improve their heart health and reduce their risk for CVD immediately. Within a year, the risk of heart attack drops dramatically, and even people who have already had a heart attack can cut their risk of having another if they quit smoking. Within five years of quitting, smokers lower their risk of stroke to about that of a person who has never smoked.’
The pressure of work, life, personal relationships can take its toll and affect our mental health. One can feel backed in a corner with no solution in sight, just this empty feeling of nothingness where one does not understand who to turn to or where to go. We all face some kinds of stress during our lifetime but how we manage it makes a substantial difference to our physical wellbeing. Sometimes we just need to take a step back, take a deep breath and accept what life throws at us and move forward. Learning to control and managing stress is crucial in reducing the chances heart disease. It may not seem easy but long term, you need to understand that you matter, your mental wellbeing matters and most of all your health matters.
The lifestyle we lead make significantly affect our health not just our heart. Let us be mindful of the choices we make and the life we choose to live.