Cardiovascular disease remains a serious health problem among Americans, mostly because of lifestyle factors. Because age and hereditary factors are unmodifiable, plans designed to reduce risk for cardiovascular disease mostly address lifestyle-related risk factors that are also associated with the major precursors for the condition, which are hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes.
Studies have established that the focus of effective cardiovascular risk reduction strategies should be on lifestyle changes, which should include adopting a heart-healthy diet, engaging in regular physical activity, cessation of smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Addressing precursors for cardiovascular disease
- Hypertension. The World Health Organization has identified hypertension as the number one risk factor for cardiovascular disease and the greatest risk factor for death and disability in the world. And according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hypertension increases the risk for death from heart disease by a factor of three, and from stroke by a factor of four.
- Hyperlipidemia. This is the medical term for high cholesterol and is one of the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Cholesterol-lowering drugs have proven effective in significantly reducing the incidence of hyperlipidemia; however, lifestyle changes remain crucial in ensuring long-term overall good health.
- Diabetes. According to the American College of Cardiology (ACC), “Diabetes is associated with a two- to three-fold increased risk of cardiovascular disease, which is more likely to be the cause of hospitalization in patients with diabetes than diabetes-related causes.”
Changes that are good for your heart
- More greens. A predominantly plant-based diet has shown to produce the greatest improvements in heart health. A combination of increased leafy greens, legumes, fruits, and whole grains, and limited cholesterol is the ideal dietary approach for cardiovascular disease risk reduction.
- Physical activity. Increased physical activity during leisure time plus regular exercise are also key to the prevention of heart disease. The abovementioned ACC article also cites the results of the PURE study, which showed that “30 minutes of physical activity five days a week could prevent one in 12 deaths and one in 20 cases of cardiovascular disease worldwide. A higher reduction was seen in those who were highly active (750 minutes weekly.” (Ibid.) Another study found that a daily 10-minute brisk-walk or 15- to 20-minute leisurely walk “can reduce all-cause mortality by 33 percent in patients with stable coronary heart disease.” (Ibid.)
Give your heart a chance
Despite being the leading cause of death worldwide, most Americans refuse to make the necessary lifestyle changes that will reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease. In fact, less than one percent satisfy acceptable levels of seven key cardiovascular health metrics: blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, healthy weight, healthy diet, physical activity, and smoking status.
In addition to personal difficulties in changing unhealthy behaviors, lack of access to adequate healthcare, high healthcare costs, limited physician-patient time, and limited healthcare provider training on the important role of a healthy diet and physical activity on cardiovascular health also hinder patients from successfully adopting healthy lifestyle modifications.
If you want to find out your risks for cardiovascular disease and want to give your heart a fighting chance, visit a HOMA primary care physician today.