Nicki Anderson: You can prevent heart disease
By Nicki Anderson For The Sun February 12, 2013 11:19AM
Updated: March 14, 2013 6:17AM
Even with the surplus of information via internet and media about National Heart Month, lack of awareness about heart disease and its potential deadly impact continues. Many are still unaware that simple lifestyle changes can reverse heart disease, also known at cardiovascular disease. Yet, if heart disease goes undetected or untreated, it can be fatal.
According to the American Heart Association, heart disease can trigger a number of issues, but it begins with a process called atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is the result of a build up of plaque in the walls of the arteries. The plaque clogs up the artery, disturbing the flow of blood throughout the body. Over time, this causes blood clots that may result in life-threatening conditions such as heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. Contributors to atherosclerosis include, high blood pressure, high levels of cholesterol and sugar in the blood, and smoking.
Lifestyle can either exacerbate risks or reduce them. Eating a diet full of vegetables, fruits, lean meats and minimally processed foods is a great way to reduce the risk of heart disease. Also, giving up smoking and taking up exercise will greatly enhance the quality of life and lower your risk of disease.
It’s interesting that most people lose weight for appearance opposed to trying to get healthy. Consider this, if you change your diet from highly processed, sugary foods to a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, you’ll lose weight. If you give up sugary drinks and walk 30 minutes a day, you’ll lose weight. But the most important result of these changes is you’ll be reducing your risk of heart disease. But what happens if you don’t make changes?
Untreated heart disease
You likely know someone who has suffered a heart attack.
A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked by a blood clot. If this clot cuts off the blood flow completely, the part of the heart muscle supplied by that artery begins to die. Most people survive their first heart attack and are able to resume an active life. But in order to do that, healthy changes must be implemented.
Another result of untreated heart disease may result in an ischemic stroke. This happens when a blood vessel that feeds the brain gets blocked, usually from a blood clot. When the blood supply to a part of the brain is shut off, brain cells will die. The result will be the inability to carry out some of the previous functions as before like walking or talking. (Think Sen. Mark Kirk).
According to Dr. Dean Ornish, founder and president of Preventative Medicine Research Institute, “Almost 95 percent of heart disease is preventable. We don’t need to wait for a new breakthrough, a new drug, a new laser, something really high-tech. We just need to put into practice what we already know. These are very simple things.”
The Center for Disease Control, lists high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking as key risk factors for heart disease. About 49 percent of Americans have at least one of these risk factors. They include:
Overweight and obesity
Excessive alcohol use
But if you’re ready to make some changes or make sure you’re doing the right things consider the following:
If you’re taking medication, follow your doctor’s instructions and stay on your medications.
Eat a healthy diet that is low in salt; low in saturated fat, and cholesterol; and rich in fresh fruits and vegetables.
Take a brisk 10-minute walk, three times a day, five days a week.
Don’t smoke. If you smoke, quit as soon as possible. Visit www.cdc.gov/tobacco and www.smokefree.gov for tips on quitting.
Limit alcohol consumption.
If you haven’t yet decided to focus on better nutrition and more activity in your lifestyle, I hope that this column may inspire you to make needed changes. It’s National Heart Month, why not give your heart the love it deserves?