The American Heart Association estimates that 81.1 million people in the United States - more than one in three - suffer from one or more types of cardiovascular disease. In fact, since 1900 in every year except 1918, cardiovascular disease accounted for more deaths than any other major cause of death in the United States with coronary heart disease comprising the largest segment of that number. The numbers are stunning, this year an estimated 785,000 Americans will have a new coronary attack, 470,000 will have a recurrent attack, and an additional 195,000 silent heart attacks will occur.
There are major risk factors for coronary disease that simply cannot be changed, most notably heredity, ethnicity and aging. However, behavior-based major risks are within individual's control and can greatly reduce the odds of developing or worsening heart disease.
Smoking lowers beneficial HDL and makes blood vessels less elastic, which means fatty deposits are more likely to cause blockages. Quitting smoking may be even more important than reducing your cholesterol! Recent research shows that male smokers with low cholesterol have a substantially higher risk of death than nonsmokers with high cholesterol and women who smoke are two to six times more likely to suffer a heart attack than those who don't. The good news is: if you quit, within one year your risk of coronary heart disease drops an amazing 50 percent and within 15 years that risk approaches that of a lifetime nonsmoker.
If you're one of the 70 percent of smokers who want to quit, but haven't been able to, talk to your doctor for the latest techniques that help smokers break the habit.
More than 6 in 10 Americans don't get enough exercise to produce a positive impact on their health. Regular exercise increases HDL, reduces LDL, improves insulin sensitivity, and lowers blood pressure. It also helps to control your weight and keep your heart in shape. If you do have high cholesterol or other coronary heart disease risk factors, exercise can help remove some of those risks by creating healthier, stronger blood vessels and, in some instances, building new blood vessels! It doesn't take much, just 20 minutes of brisk walking per day will help your body burn calories instead of storing them as fat and improve your risk factor levels.
Adopt a Healthy Diet
If you eat a diet high in saturated fat and trans fatty acids, you're more likely to have high cholesterol. Recent studies suggest that a diet with variety of at least nine servings or 4 and one-half cups of fruits and vegetables a day will give your body the necessary mix of nutrients. Go for dark leafy greens, cooked tomatoes, and rich yellow, orange, or red color vegetables. Eating a balanced diet lowers your cholesterol, reduces your risk of heart disease, and can even unclog your arteries!
Prolonged stress creates a damaging toll on the cardiovascular system, Elevated adrenaline levels raise blood pressure and heart rate, making the heart and its blood vessels work overtime to keep up. Regular exercise is an excellent method to reduce stress, along with enough sleep. Be sure to take some time for yourself and relax. It's worth it.
These simple steps to better heart health are within your control! It's time to get started!