I Heart Self Care for My Heart
Self Care for Your Heart
The heart beats about 2.5 billion times over the average lifespan. Every minute, it pumps about five quarts of blood through a system of blood vessels over 60,000 miles long, equal to about 2,000 gallons of blood every day. Pretty amazing. However, keeping our heart healthy is our biggest health challenge.
Ischemic heart disease and stroke are the world's biggest killers, accounting for a combined 15 million deaths in 2015. These diseases have remained the leading causes of death globally for the last 15 years.
Anyone can develop heart disease. It occurs when a substance called plaque builds up in your arteries. When this happens, your arteries can narrow over time, reducing blood flow to the heart.
The term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type is coronary heart disease, which can cause heart attack. Other kinds of heart disease may involve the valves in the heart, or the heart may not pump well and cause heart failure.
According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year which accounts for 1 in every 4 deaths.
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. More than half of the deaths due to heart disease in 2009 were in men.
- 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 and 210,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.
Statistics from the American Heart Association show that 75 million Americans currently suffer from heart disease and it is affecting younger and younger people in greater numbers every year.
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. About half of Americans (47%) have at least one of these three risk factors.
Several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease, including:
- Overweight and obesity
- Poor diet
- Physical inactivity
- Excessive alcohol use
Even though 25% of the population takes statin medications to control cholesterol and despite the fact we have reduced the fat content of our diets, more Americans will die this year of heart disease than ever before.
Heart disease may be a leading cause of death, but that doesn't mean you have to accept it as your fate. Although you lack the power to change some risk factors such as family history, sex or age there are some key heart disease prevention steps you can take to reduce your risk.
The Mayo Clinic recommends the following seven strategies to prevent heart disease.
1. Don't smoke or use tobacco
Smoking or using tobacco of any kind is one of the most significant risk factors for developing heart disease. Chemicals in tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels, leading to narrowing of the arteries due to plaque buildup (atherosclerosis). Atherosclerosis can ultimately lead to a heart attack.
2. Exercise for about 30 minutes on most days of the week
Getting some regular, daily exercise can reduce your risk of heart disease. When you combine physical activity with other lifestyle measures, such as maintaining a healthy weight, the payoff is even greater. Physical activity can help you control your weight and reduce your chances of developing other conditions that may put a strain on your heart, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
3. Eat a heart-healthy diet
Eating a healthy diet can reduce your risk of heart disease. Two examples of heart-healthy food plans include the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan and the Mediterranean diet.
A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help protect your heart. Aim to eat beans, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, lean meats, and fish as part of a healthy diet.
Avoid too much salt and sugars in your diet.
4. Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight, especially if you carry excess weight around your middle increases your risk of heart disease. Excess weight can lead to conditions that increase your chances of heart disease including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
5. Get enough quality sleep
Sleep deficiency can do more than leave you tired throughout the day. It can harm your health. People who don't get enough sleep have a higher risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes and depression.
6. Manage stress
Some people cope with stress in unhealthy ways such as overeating, drinking or smoking. Finding alternative ways to manage stress such as physical activity, relaxation exercises or meditation can help improve your health.
7. Get regular health screenings
High blood pressure and high cholesterol can damage your heart and blood vessels. But without testing, you probably won't know whether you have these conditions. Regular screening can tell you what your numbers are and whether you need to take action.
A recent CDC report found that approximately 80 percent of deaths from coronary artery disease, a name for heart disease caused by narrowing of the arteries which leads to reduced blood flow to the heart, can be attributed to preventable factors like obesity, poor physical activity, heavy drinking, eating unhealthy foods and not keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol under control. These lifestyle changes could also prevent about 50 percent of stroke deaths, the report's authors added.