In the United States, every year over 600,000 people die due to poor heart health. That is 1 death per minute.
Every. Single. Minute!
Heart disease is the leading cause of death, 1 death in every 4 deaths, in almost any bracket you can think of. Even youth is not protected, which means your children might be in as much danger as you are.
Considering these facts, good heart health should be the number one priority on everyone’s mind. It should especially be of great concern to those with no insurance and limited coverage for certain types of specialists, all of which are much less likely to visit a specialist that can give them complete, specific, cutting-edge information their primary doctor might not be fully up-to-date on.
Heart disease is easily preventable, or at least minimized, for most people. Even those at high risk from the day they are born can control that risk to some degree. Understanding the important factors of heart health, and how they contribute to your risk for heart disease, is paramount to keeping your heart healthy and vastly lowering the risk of heart disease for you and your family.
Your genetic background holds important clues to your risk for heart disease. A long family history of heart problems is a good indicator that you should be especially careful about your heart health.
Doing a little research into your family’s medical history as far back as you can and then informing your doctor about the numbers and types of heart problems that are prevalent in your family can help your provider choose the right direction for your care.
Certain medical conditions, or the medications associated with them, can increase your risk for heart disease. This is a very complicated part of your personal risk factors. Be sure to ask your primary doctor of the general risks of any condition you develop and any medication you might be taking. If you have other factors that put you at greater risk than normal, start looking for a cardiologist that can look at your medical history and records and explain if you are at added risk for heart problems.
Race & Ethnicity
Race and ethnicity play a larger role in heart health than was ever realized. For example, ethnic Hispanics have much greater risk factors but are 25% less likely to develop heart disease than their white counterparts. Blacks, on the other hand, are 20 times more likely than any other race or ethnicity to develop heart problems of all kinds and they have these risks from birth.
Understanding your racial and ethnic make-up could be of paramount importance in your heart health. Researching your family history and uncovering these important facts could end up being a life-saving venture for you and your family.
Certain mental disorders are directly connected to higher risks of heart disease and problems. Chronic depression or chronic anxiety, for example, can double your chances of having a heart attack when combined with certain other risk factors.
If you feel you have a problem with depression, anxiety, or any other mental disorder, be sure to inform your cardiologist or to seek help from a mental health provider. Even if you do not qualify as a chronic sufferer at higher risk for heart problems, reducing or eliminating stress initiators is known to reduce overall stress, which is also healthy for your heart.
Gender plays another key role in heart health. Men are more likely than women to develop heart problems of all types, and more likely to die from heart disease or complications of heart disease. Men are also more likely to suffer from chronic stress.
Women, on the other hand, have added risk factors that men do not share. Hormones, childbearing, reproductive health, and a tendency to suffer from more mental disorders almost doubles the factors that play into a woman’s heart health.
Understanding your unique risk factors is important. Speak to your primary doctor or a cardiologist and find out if you need to seek out specialists in mental health, or women’s health to ensure that you are addressing any and all risks that apply to you because of your gender.
Everyone is aware that stress is a huge factor in the risk of heart disease. Not everyone understands what is meant when they are warned about stress, however. A single stressful event, absent many other risk factors being in place, is unlikely to trigger a heart attack or stroke.
Chronic stress is daily stress that is left unchecked or unmitigated. Chronic stress is also the stress raises your risks for heart disease and problems. High-stress jobs, extremely demanding jobs, or severe anxiety disorders without the appropriate downtime, medications, or relaxation methods are most often the cause of heart health risk.
Your body weight relative to your age and frame is extremely important to your heart health. One of the strongest ways to ensure excellent heart health is to maintain your ideal body weight. But make certain that medical professionals, and not a Hollywood starlet or rock star selling a video, tell you what your ideal body weight is.
Being too thin is actually more harmful to your heart than being morbidly overweight. Your age, height, skeletal frame, mobility, muscle tone and metabolism are all critical parts of deciding your ideal body weight. Only a medical professional with your health history can tell you what your real ideal weight is.
Even if you maintain your ideal body weight, your diet can help or hinder you on your path to good heart health. It is technically possible to maintain a good body weight while eating nothing but cake and ice cream, studies have proven this.
However, a diet of only cake and ice cream will raise your risk of heart disease at an alarming rate. A heart healthy diet includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean meats in appropriate measures every day.
Your level of physical activity plays a multi-faceted part in your heart health, good or bad. Being physically active every day directly reduces your risks for heart disease all on its own, making it an important part of your daily regiment for good heart health. Sedentary lifestyles or jobs, on the other hand, can greatly increase your risks for heart disease if they are not carefully counterbalanced.
Certain kinds of physical activity can also serve to reduce stress, relieve anxiety and depression, elevate your overall mood, and make it easier to maintain your ideal body weight, thereby improving many other factors that can lead to heart problems.
Finding physical activities that get your body moving, eases your mind, and makes you happy also means less of the dreaded exercise program. 30 minutes of vigorous dance is just as effective as 30 minutes of any other cardiovascular activity when it comes to your heart health. If it gets your heart pumping and you enjoy it, do it.
Age & Heart Health
Age is probably the most well known, if not the most understood, of the risk factors for heart disease. Your heart, like any other muscle in your body, weakens as you grow older if you are not careful to maintain a heart healthy lifestyle. That much is clear.
What is not so clear, and is still being studied, is just how age plays a factor when it is combined with other risks. Most people assume children are all but immune to heart issues unless they have a heart condition. Studies are now showing this may not be true.
When combined with genetics and race, children of any age, even infants, may be at risk for sudden heart problems. More work needs to be done to fully understand the risks to youth, but it would be a good idea for parents to speak to their pediatricians about the family history of heart risks and ensure they are doing all they can to give their children the best possible start to good heart health.