Vail Daily column: Take steps to prevent heart disease
While many people may think that heart disease is more prevalent in men than women, they are wrong.
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of both men and women in the U.S. Nearly two-thirds of women and half of men who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms. As a society, we are not doing the best we can to prevent heart disease. In the U.S., someone dies every 37 seconds from some type of cardiovascular disease. By the time you finish reading this article, there may be more than four people who have died.
Further, we may not be doing the best we can to prevent our children from the disease. Risk factors of the disease begin in childhood and increase throughout the teen and young adult years. A major contributor of the disease in children results from obesity. The CDC reports that from 1980 to 2010, the number of obese children 6 to 11 years old has risen to 18 percent of the population. A major contributor to obesity in children can be attributed to eating too many calories and not getting enough exercise.
As a result of increasing numbers of overweight or obese children, we can expect many more adults with heart disease in the near future. It should also be noted that overweight children are also at an increased risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes — all of which are directly correlated to increased levels of heart disease.
Heart disease is a form of cardiovascular disease. Simply stated, heart disease manifests itself in a number of ways. Quite often, it blocks the normal flow of oxygen and nutrients from reaching the heart, thus causing a heart attack. It is also related to plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries, which is called atherosclerosis. As the plaque builds up, the arteries narrow, making it more difficult for blood to flow thus exacerbating the risk for a heart attack or stroke. Heart disease is often called the silent killer as we rarely know that we have this disease until unfortunately our heart notifies us in the form of a heart attack. Heart disease is with us for life — once you have it, you have it for life.
The good news concerning most heart disease is that it can be prevented. Everyone knows that eating better, exercising and regular physical exams can lead to a longer and healthier life. Unfortunately, so many of us choose to ignore the warnings that most health care professionals have been issuing for years.
If you do nothing else, just start with these suggestions:
• Exercise regularly, especially with your doctor’s knowledge and permission.
• Eat properly. This means less fat, i.e., reduced or no foods with trans-fats or hydrogenated fats. Increase your intake of fiber, i.e., grains, seeds, herbs, legumes, and fruits and vegetables.
• Regularly monitor your blood pressure levels.
• Reduce your salt intake.
• Monitor your sugar levels.
For women, there is also a connection between heart disease and menopause. For example, as women complete menopause, their estrogen levels drop which happens to coincide with a doubling of the risks of developing heart disease. Even though some risk factors, such as age and family history, cannot be changed, it is amazing that “80 percent of women ages 40 to 60 have one or more risk factors for heart disease” (National Institutes of Health) that can be controlled.
Again, the key to preventing heart disease is the knowledge of your own specific risks. Many of these risks can only be determined through a check-up with your physician and your honest answers to the questions he/she poses to you during your exam. Some of the risks should be apparent to you even without the expertise of your physician. For example, you know if you are a smoker, or if you do little to no exercise, or if your eating habits are not what you know they could be.
Heart disease is a killer — a serious killer. By becoming more aware of the issues and by becoming more active in the fight against this disease, you can not only help yourself and children, but also aid others in their fight against heart disease.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.