Lets face some facts about heart disease.
Traditional cardiovascular healthcare emphasizes episodic treatment of acute symptoms for heart disease. Proactive or planned care, and preventive care are often services that are poorly reimbursed.
As such, risk factors for heart disease are highly prevalent in the US. We assessed about 2000 young professionals in New York City about their risk factors for heart disease and here is what we found:
Majority of Americans are already suffering from heart disease.
And about 90% of heart disease is attributable to lifestyle factors or chronic conditions that are preventable!
Now lets take a closer at the risk factors of heart disease…
Your heart functions as a muscular pump, that contracts rhythmically and squirts blood into your arteries. From there, your blood is channeled to your entire body, through a circulatory system of smaller vessels. In this way, oxygen is delivered to all parts of your body. If your blood pressure is too high, your heart must work much harder to maintain adequate blood flow to your body. High blood pressure, or hypertension, approximately doubles the risk for heart attack and stroke.
1 in 3 US adults younger than 60 years of age and 2 in 3 adults more than 60 years old suffer from high blood pressure. 1 in 2 patients have uncontrolled high blood pressure.
Diabetes is a condition than can be summed up to ‘high blood glucose’. High glucose damages all types and sizes of blood vessels in your body. Think of a gas tank of a car that gets filled with oil instead of gasoline. Now compare it with the sugary sweet thick blood that sticks to the sides of blood vessels, causing atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. When this occurs in blood vessels supplying the heart and the brain, it can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
More than 29 million Americans have diabetes; 1 in 4 doesn’t know. Another 86 million adults – more than one in three U.S. adults – have prediabetes, where their blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes. Millions of people with diabetes are unaware of their increased risk of heart disease.
Cholesterol is a soft, fat-like substance found in the blood. It builds in the inner walls of your arteries over time and turns into plaque. That plaque can lead to blood clots, heart attacks or strokes.
In the US, more than 100 million, or roughly 53% of adults, have elevated cholesterol. Yet, fewer than 50% of patients with high cholesterol receive treatment, and among those receiving treatment, fewer than 35% achieve adequate control. Further, approximately 31 million American adults have total cholesterol levels that exceed 240 mg/dL, placing them at about twice the risk of heart disease compared to those with normal cholesterol levels.
The chemicals in tobacco smoke damage your heart and blood vessels. This increases your risk of atherosclerosis, a disease in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up in the arteries. It is commonly thought that replacing the cigarette with an e-cigarette is as good as replacing sugar with splenda! But guess what – it is actually as bad!
Smoking increases your risk for heart disease by upto 3 times. E-cigarettes double the risk and people who smoke both regular and e-cigarettes, have a whopping FIVE times higher risk of heart attacks.
Obesity and Physical Inactivity
2 out of 3 Americans are overweight or obese. Eighty percent of American adults do not meet the government’s national physical activity recommendations for aerobic activity and muscle strengthening. When you’re a couch potato, your body is essentially ‘shutting down.’ Your muscles burn less fat and blood flows sluggishly during a long sit, allowing fatty acids to more easily clog the arteries in the heart.
For decades, the possibility of effective primary prevention in cardiology has been met with skepticism. While care providers, pharmaceutical and device industries, and hospital systems have achieved great strides in improving treatment and outcomes of heart disease, efforts to actually prevent heart disease have fallen short.
But the good news is that prevention CAN work, if done right. We know that:
- A 12-point reduction in your blood pressure can reduce your risk of heart attack by 21% and stroke by 37%
- A 10% decrease in your cholesterol can reduce your risk of heart disease by about 30%
- Smoking cessation can decrease your risk of heart attack by upto 36%
- Increased intake of fruits and vegetables can decrease your risk of heart disease by upto 20%
- Recommended exercise can decrease your risk for heart disease by up to 40%
You don’t need to be a math major to understand that you CAN prevent a heart attack or heart disease in general!
If you have any questions about heart disease prevention, or anything else at all about your heart, click here.