Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide for both men AND women. A combination of genetics and other risk factors causes heart disease.

The first step toward heart health is understanding your risk of heart disease. Each year 500,000 Americans die of heart disease, and approximately half are women. At age 45, a man’s heart disease risk increases significantly. For women, risk increases at age 55, corresponding with menopause. 50% of men and 64% of women who suddenly die of heart disease have no previous symptoms. A recent study showed that only 3% of US adults engage in lifestyle habits that decrease the risk of heart disease—eating a healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding smoking. The importance of the recognition of the risk factors for heart disease starts early. Studies have shown that about 2/3 of teenagers already have at least one risk factor for heart disease. And we know that habits we learn as children stay with us throughout our lives.

Risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, prediabetes or diabetes, smoking, physical inactivity, family history of early heart disease, history of preeclampsia during pregnancy, unhealthy eating behaviors, and age 55 or older for women and 45 or older for men. Each risk factor increases your chance of developing heart disease; the more risk factors you have, the higher your risk. Some risk factors, such as age, sex, and family history, are not modifiable; however, most other risk factors for heart disease can be prevented or reversed.

The term “heart disease” encompasses many conditions. It generally means blockage in the arteries that supply blood to the heart, which can cause a heart attack. There are many other cardiovascular conditions, such as congestive heart failure, abnormal heart rhythms, such as atrial fibrillation and strokes, to be aware of and try to avoid.

Even though we have effective medications and excellent treatments for these cardiovascular conditions, such as coronary stents, coronary artery bypass surgery, and ablation of arrhythmias, it’s always better to prevent these diseases if possible.

The American Heart Association recommends the Essential 8 for heart health:

  1. Eat better
  2. Be more active
  3. Quit tobacco
  4. Get healthy sleep
  5. Manage weight
  6. Control cholesterol
  7. Manage blood sugar
  8. Manage blood pressure

Most of the Essential 8 can be achieved with lifestyle modification; in fact, most cardiovascular diseases and other chronic illnesses can be avoided or improved with lifestyle modification. Unfortunately, lifestyle modification can be difficult for people to accomplish and maintain long-term on their own. Consider joining my monthly membership or signing up for the Heart Health Foundations course or 1:1 health coaching. If you want to learn more, click here to schedule a free consultation.