We live in a world where more people face illness and disease, including heart disease. Heart disease is among the top causes of death and the risk increases with diet, age, and other factors. The good news is there are ways you can lower your risk and help prevent heart disease.
What Is Heart Disease?
Heart disease is a broad term referring to illness of the cardiovascular system. There are many forms of heart disease, including disease of the heart muscle, coronary artery, arrhythmias, heart valve, and others. Some people are born with these conditions, while others develop them over time because of lifestyle choices or environmental factors.
How the Heart Works
In order to understand what causes heart disease, let’s first look at how the heart works. It’s helpful to think of the heart as an electrical system. The heart is a major, muscular organ that works like a pump, sending blood throughout your body. The heart has four values that must remain open at all times for proper blood flow.
Located on the left side of your chest, it rhythmically pumps the blood through the pulmonary arteries and sends it to the lungs for oxygen. The lungs supply the blood with oxygen and send it back to the left side of the heart, where the heart then sends it throughout the body.
What Causes Heart Disease?
Understanding how the heart works help us understand what causes different heart diseases and conditions. Each disease or condition results from a different cause and can have varying symptoms as well. Heart disease can occur from a ruptured value, plaque buildup, congenital defects, or infections, to name a few causes.
Recognizing the Signs
Recognizing the signs of heart disease may help you take extra precautions to prevent further heart damage. Although each type of heart disease has different symptoms, there are few common signs you should learn to recognize.
- Chest pain, tightness, or other uncomfortable feelings in your chest
- Numbness or swelling in neck, shoulders, or other limbs
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Irregular heartbeats
- Shortness of breath
Many heart diseases result from high blood pressure or cholesterol due to poor health and wellness. While there are certain factors that trigger heart conditions, there are things you can do to prevent them.
How Can You Prevent Heart Disease?
There are many ways to help prevent heart disease or keep your current heart condition from worsening. Whether you have a specific heart issue or you’ve experienced any symptoms of heart disease, here are a few steps you can take to gain better control of cardiovascular health.
Poor sleep habits are tied to several health issues, including poor heart health. When you don’t get enough sleep, the body’s ability to heal itself decreases, making you susceptible to other illnesses and diseases. Getting enough sleep allows your body to recover and repair cognitive function.
Prioritizing good, quality sleep will lower your risk of high cholesterol and blood pressure, which are contributing factors to heart disease. Try establishing a sleep schedule and commit to at least 8 hours of sleep a night. If you’re getting enough sleep, but you still feel fatigued during the day, talk to your doctor. You may have another underlying condition that is preventing you from getting quality sleep.
Focus On A Heart-Healthy Diet
Do you eat enough fruits and vegetables in your diet? Eating well-balanced meals is the best way to prevent heart disease. Try including more fruits and vegetables in your diet that contain fiber and whole grains.
The American Heart Association recommends eating more of these foods than meat in your diet. While meat provides protein, eating too many fattening meat choices will increase your risk of heart disease. Nuts, seeds, fruit, and whole grains are other fiber-rich food options.
Avoiding smoking is one of the best things you can do for heart health. The chemicals in tobacco harm the heart’s blood vessels and reduce oxygen in the blood. When the oxygen flow lowers, the heart works harder to increase the supply.
Second-hand smoke is also damaging to those who live or work around smokers. Breathing in smoke can affect the lining of the arteries and blood vessels just as much as directly smoking. If you’re having trouble quitting smoking, talk with a doctor so they can create a plan to help you regain control of your heart health.
Along with a heart-healthy diet plan, getting enough exercise is essential for reducing your risk of heart disease. At least 30-60 minutes of daily exercise greatly reduces your risk of heart issues and other illnesses. Getting enough exercise also helps you maintain a healthy weight and lowers your risk of diabetes and other obesity-causing diseases.
Even the shortest periods of exercise provide significant health benefits. Walking, jogging, aerobics, or even yard work gives your heart a workout. As you get used to the enjoyable activity, you can work to increase the frequency and duration to build up your heart health and strength.
This tip on preventing heart disease may seem difficult for most people. Homelife, relationships, and work situations can all take a toll on our stress levels. Overeating, drinking, smoking, and not sleeping are some unhealthy coping mechanisms that people can use when they feel stressed. The more stressed you feel, the more you use these unhealthy techniques to manage stress. Eventually, your heart feels the stress too.
High-stress levels increase your cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart conditions. If you struggle with stress management, try finding alternative ways to reduce your stress. Some techniques include:
- Enjoyable exercise
- Connecting with friends
- Deep breathing
- Listening to music
- Spending time in the sun
- Mindful meditation
Practicing mindful meditation is a common technique to reduce stress. Try out a few things and find what works for you.