RISK FACTOR MODIFICATION AND HEART DISEASE: Key Tips for Prevention

According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the nation’s single leading cause of death for both men and women. At least 58.8 million people in this country suffer from some form of heart disease.  And some 950,000 Americans will die of heart disease every year.

Exercising, Risk Factor Modification and Heart Disease Prevention

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The good news is that measures can be taken to prevent heart disease. Studies show that nearly everyone can become more heart healthy by following a few key steps, such as:

    • Eating a healthy diet
    • Exercising
    • Not smoking
    • Maintaining a healthy body weight.

 

Misconceptions about heart disease:

The biggest misconception is that heart disease only happens to the elderly.

    • In fact, according to the American Heart Association, almost 150,00 Americans killed by cardiovascular disease each year are under the age of 65.
    • And one out of every 20 people below the age of 40 has heart disease.

Risk Factor Modification CAN make a Difference!

There are many risk factors for heart disease; some are inherited ( unmodifiable ), but others are quite controllable.

  • Uncontrollable risk factors include:

    • Family history of heart disease (especially with onset before age 55) – You can’t pick your parents!
    • Diabetes mellitus-Diabetes can be controlled, however!
    • Age (65 and older)
    • Women, after the onset of menopause – generally men are at risk at an earlier age than women, but after menopause, women are equally at risk

 

These factors cannot be controlled but having them compounds the importance of modifying the risk factors that we can control.

  • Controllable risk factors:

 

    • Cigarette smoking – By quitting smoking many patients can have an immediate effect of reducing their risk of fatal heart attack and lung cancer.  Indeed, the risk of fatal heart attack is the same as if you had never smoked at all by 10 years after quitting!

 

    • Being overweight by 30 percent – Weight reduction can also have a profound effect on general health.  Many patients are able to reduce and even discontinue many high blood pressure and diabetes medications after weight reduction programs.

 

    • Hypertension – By strictly adhering to high blood pressure medication regimens, many patients reduce their risk of long term consequences of hypertension to near normal levels

 

    • High cholesterol levels (specifically, high LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol and high triglycerides)- The benefits of strict compliance with cholesterol-lowering medication cannot be underestimated as a multitude of scientific studies have stressed the benefits of lowering LDL in promoting longevity and reducing the risk of cardiovascular events

 

    • Stressful/Sedentary lifestyle- The importance of some form of stress relief (usually exercise) has been mandated by the American Heart Association, as an essential part of a heart-healthy lifestyle.  Indeed, the AHA recommends some form of physical activity on a daily basis to promote heart health.  At least 30 minutes to maintain a healthy weight, and 1 hour to promote weight reduction.
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