Every year 17.9 million people die worldwide of cardiovascular diseases (heart and blood vessel diseases) and their effects –that’s almost the population of Florida!
Cardiovascular diseases continue to be the leading causes of disability and premature death in most countries in the world and are the most common cause of hospitalization. Coronary artery diseases (such as angina and heart attack), stroke and heart failure are some of the most common conditions and often end with a fatal outcome. By knowing the risk factors that influence these diseases we are better able to protect our own health. In fact, prevention should already be started in your youth!
Unfortunately, while they are risk factors for heart attack and stroke development that can be changed and controlled, there are also those that cannot be altered.
Risk Factors That Can Be Controlled
High blood pressure is a significant risk factor that can lead to stroke and one of the main causes in about half of all heart disease.
Diet – excessive intake of salt, fats, sugars, processed meat and red meat products, and insufficient intake of vegetables, white meat, fish and fruits are responsible for over 20% of cardiovascular diseases.
Increased cholesterol – also a consequence of a bad diet, is responsible for about a third of all heart disease and strokes in the world. Follow your LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels on regular check-ups and ask your doctor if you notice changes.
Increased blood glucose levels – people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease as people without diabetes.
Increased body weight–obesity is dangerous because it increases the risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes and blood vessel blockage, all of them risk factors of cardiovascular diseases. With increased body weight, abdominal obesity is also a risk factor. Waist measurements of over 37 inches for men and 32 inches for women are already a health risk, while values over 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women pose a very high risk.
Lack of physical activity is associated with many diseases and is the fourth leading risk factor for mortality worldwide .
Smoking – smokers can have up to double the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases than non-smokers. In fact, it can take up to 15 years after quitting smoking to return your risk level to that of people who do not smoke.
Exposure to stress – longterm stress affect the function of our entire body, your heart included . Stress reduces the flow of blood through the heart, which can cause it to work incorrectly and create a predisposition for blood clots.
Risk Factors That Cannot Be Controlled
Age is the most important risk factor in developing heart diseases, with a tripling of risk with each decade of life and doubling the risk of strokes after 55 .
Genetics – if a close family member (parents) had a cardiovascular disease, the risk of illness is increasing by 3 times . Genetics also influence the risk the development of cardiovascular disease in men under 55 and in women less than 65 years old.
Gender – men are at a greater risk than women who have not yet entered menopause. Once past menopause, this risk is more or less the same for both women and men . The risk of developing a stroke is the same as both sexes.
Lowering the Risks
Try to avoid stress – consider what you can influence in your life and do not get upset about things you cannot change.
Be more physically active – move or engage in some kind of physical activity according to your abilities and interests, 30-60 min each day. If you are not a fan of lonely exercising, try some sports with your friends.
A healthy diet – while limiting red and processed meats, eat vegetables daily,wholegrain products, fatty sea fish 2-3 times a week, white chicken and turkey meat, seasoned olive oil.Drink enough water and reduce the amount of alcohol you consume.
Less salt – limit the use of salt to 1 teaspoon per day.
Stop smoking – by stopping smoking you reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases AND make your environment healthier.
Maintain optimal body weight – with suitable nutrition and everyday physical activity, you will keep your blood pressure under control and increase the quality of your life.
Go to regular checkups – if you suffer from high blood pressure yourself or have a family history, do regular check-ups and use appropriate therapy with expert supervision.
By lowering the risks associated with cardiovascular diseases you put yourself on a good path towards healthy and productive advanced years. However, even if you are diagnosed, or have a family history in heart diseases, modern medicine can accommodate your needs.
Here is the recommended treatment for some common cardiac diseases:
- Heart failure is caused by damage to the heart that has developed over time. It can be treated with strategies such as lifestyle changes, medications, devices and surgical procedures and regular ongoing care.
- Heart attacks–treatments differ for STEMI vs NSTEMI heart attack, but generally hospitals try to restore blood flow to part of the heart muscle damaged during a heart attack. Some of the common treatments include: angioplasty, artificial heart valve surgery, bypass surgery, heart transplant, stent procedure, etc.
- Heart rhythm problems–the underlying cause of any heart rhythm disorder will determine the best treatment plan. Generally, the best treatment course is the least invasive option that effectively controls your heart rhythm disorder. Treatment options include: lifestyle changes, medications, electronic devices, defibrillators and pacemakers, CRT devices, catheter ablation and surgery.
This article is sponsored by The Olga and Lev Leviev Heart Center at Sheba Medical Center.