According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. We hear things all the time about ‘heart healthy,’ or ‘heart smart,’ but what exactly is heart disease?
Turns out it’s an umbrella term used for many different types of heart conditions. Heart disease is a structural, functional, or mechanical problem with the heart. There is coronary heart disease, cardiomyopathy, cardiovascular disease, ischemic heart disease, hypertension, inflammatory heart disease, valvular disease, and heart failure!
There are many factors that go into developing heart disease and many are preventable. A few that are not preventable include genetics (if you have heart disease in your family) and age (the older you get, the higher your risk). Some preventable risks include smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, stress, obesity, not exercising, and diabetes.
Watching your cholesterol, triglycerides, and other heart markers can help determine your risk. Inflammation in your arteries causes cholesterol to form plaques that lead to blocked or restricted vessels. With restricted blood flow you are at risk for angina (chest pain), shortness of breath, tightness in your chest, and/or high blood pressure. With a blocked artery you risk a heart attack.
When looking to prevent heart disease despite genetics and age, take into account your diet, lifestyle, and exercise habits. Opt for healthy proteins such as fish, chicken, and turkey and go for olive oil instead of canola or corn oil. Eat at least 25 grams of fiber everyday through fiber supplements, vegetables, beans, and lentils. Drink enough water and limit your alcohol consumption to 2 drinks or less per week (yes … per week).
Exercise at least 30 minutes most days of the week and do a mixture of interval cardio and strength training. Focus on stress reduction and creating a healthy lifestyle and maintaining happy relationships as your heart has a huge emotional aspect to it.
Your heart does a lot of work for you so start working for a healthy heart!