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A Healthy Heart

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Over a lifetime the heart beats about 2.5 billion times, sending blood to every part of the body. When the heart stops, essential functions fail, some almost instantly. Given the heart’s never-ending workload, it’s a wonder it performs so well, for so long, for so many people. But it can also fail, brought down by a poor diet and lack of exercise, smoking, infection, unlucky genes, and more.

Although many people develop some form of cardiovascular disease or heart disease (a catch-all term for all of the diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels) as they get older, it isn’t inevitable. A healthy lifestyle, especially when started at a young age, goes a long way in prevention.

The risk of heart disease increases around the age of 55 in women and 45 in men. But what actually causes heart attacks?

But first, let’s establish some facts.

The Centers for Disease Control states:

  • About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year – that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.
  • Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the most common type of heart disease, killing over 370,000 people annually.
  • Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 525,000 are a first heart attack, with the other 210,000 happening in people who have already had a heart attack.

The numbers listed above are staggering and it’s safe to say the results are alarmingly impactful around the globe. Digging beneath the surface, what actually causes heart disease and heart attacks?

Research indicates that there are several risk factors that play an important role in determining whether or not you’re likely to develop heart disease in your lifetime. Unfortunately, age and heredity are two of these factors that are out of your control. The risk of heart disease increases around the age of 55 in women and 45 in men. Your risk may also end up being even greater if you have close family members who have a history of heart disease.

Side note: Did you know that heart disease and stroke are the leading cause of death among women globally?

A heart attack occurs when one or more of your coronary arteries become blocked. A coronary artery can narrow over a period of time from the buildup of various substances, including cholesterol (atherosclerosis). This condition is known as coronary artery disease (CHD) and is what causes most heart attacks and doubles the likelihood of stroke. Sometimes these plaque build ups can break apart causing a blockage that leads to heart attack or stroke.

Risk factors for heart disease include:

  • obesity
  • high blood pressure and cholesterol
  • insulin resistance or diabetes
  • being physically inactive
  • eating an unhealthy diet
  • smoking
  • clinical depression

What can you do about it?

Although the risk of developing heart disease in the future is far greater in the world we live in today, here are some things you can do to help put up a fight, prevent heart disease and up your chances at leading a longer and healthier life!

Practice healthy living habits

  • Eat a healthy diet. Fuel your body with a daily diet that consists of higher protein rich foods and moderate your fat/calorie intake. When eating carbohydrates be aware that there are good carbs and bad and you will find carbohydrates in most foods you eat. Be selective and do some research on eating a well-balanced and healthy diet.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. A healthy weight does not always mean the number on the scale. Muscle essentially weight more than fat. Pay attention to other numbers too, such as your pant size or inches you are losing off your body.
  • Incorporate daily physical activity. Exercise has been proven to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, maintain weight, strengthen muscles, reduce stress level, reduce inflammation, and can even help you quit smoking. Research has shown that when combined with strength training, regular aerobic exercise such as cycling, brisk walking, or swimming can reduce the risk of diabetes. It is recommended that a daily dose of exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes (although an hour a day of various physical activity would be better). If 7 days a week is more than what your schedule allows, lower the bar some and shoot for 4-5 days a week.

Prevent or treat medical conditions

  • Schedule routine checkups. Scheduling regular routine checkups with your health care provider is important. The staff at the Southern Humboldt Community Clinic are well educated, trained, and prepared to help you.
  •  Communicate. It’s crucial to communicate with your practitioner about concerns or symptoms you are experiencing. By giving clear details and information, it helps lead our staff in the right direction so they can tackle the problem more efficiently and accurately.
  • Educate yourself. If there is an option for prevention of a medical condition or you have recently been diagnosed with one, always listen to your health care provider and educated yourself. Knowledge is power and the more you learn the better off you will be.

If you are experiencing symptoms or have concerns with your heart and the cardiovascular health, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with a provider at the SoHum Health Community Clinic where there are often same or next day appointments available, 707-923-3921.

Coach Jenny Early, submitted on behalf of the SoHum Health’s Outreach department.

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