Despite advances in technology and research, cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death for men and women, according to the American Heart Association. It’s the cause of about one of every three deaths in the United States, claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined.
Cardiovascular disease, or heart and blood vessel disease, can cause numerous problems including heart attack, heart failure and stroke.
A range of factors can raise your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Although you can’t do anything about your age, gender, heredity and race, there are many factors that you can modify, treat or control simply by making lifestyle changes or taking medication.
Through risk reduction, lifestyle changes, regular screenings, monitoring and quality health care, you can keep your cardiovascular health in your hands and increase your chances of living a long and happy life.
Know your numbers
Keeping your blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and glucose in check can keep your heart healthy. Your doctor can tell you what the normal ranges are, and what is best for your body. Then get screened regularly to know where you stand.
The American Heart Association recommends the following screening schedule:
- Blood pressure – every healthcare visit starting at age 20.
- Cholesterol – every five years starting at age 20. More often if total cholesterol is above 200; if you are a man older than 45 or a woman older than 50; if you’re a woman whose HDL is less than 50 or a man whose HDL is less than 40; if you have other cardiovascular risk factors.
- Weight/body mass index (BMI) – every visit starting at age 20.
- Waist circumference – as needed starting at age 20.
- Blood glucose – every three years starting at age 45.
If your numbers are high, your doctor can talk to you about specific lifestyle changes and/or adding certain medications to your regimen.
Develop healthy habits
Adopt a healthy diet. Limit saturated fats, salt and red meat. Consider lean meats, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables.
Get moving. For optimal heart health, adults need at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily.
Limit alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol raises blood pressure. It also adds calories, contributing to obesity and makes it harder to lose weight.
Quit smoking. A smoker’s risk of developing heart disease is two to four times that of a nonsmoker’s.
Reduce stress. Find healthy ways to manage stress – join a yoga class, start meditating or make time for yourself each week to do something you love.
By Dr. Apurva Shah contributing writer and board certified cardiologist with the Northside Hospital Heart and Vascular Institute and Northside Heart.