About 659,000 people in the United States die from heart disease each year—that’s 1 in every 4 deaths. On top of that, in the US someone has a heart attack every 36 seconds. That adds up to about 805,000 annually. These numbers are so high because about half of all Americans (47%) have at least 1 of 3 key risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking
The good news is that while some risk factors for heart disease, such as your age or family history, cannot be controlled, you can dramatically lower your risk by changing the factors you can control.
Understanding Your Heart Disease Risk
Before we delve deeper into what actions you can take to prevent heart attack, take this quiz to find out if you’re really at risk.
If your answers are mostly A’s
Based on your lifestyle and family history, your risk of getting heart disease is low. But remember that low risk doesn’t equal no risk!
Is your diet as healthy as it could be? Make sure to add high-fiber fruits and whole grains to your diet. They help keep bad LDL cholesterol in check. Also, choose low-fat dairy, as well as healthier sources of fat such as fish and olive oil. Keep your salt and sugar intake within reason. Eat healthy snacks like dried figs. They’re rich in antioxidants, which can help prevent heart disease or high blood pressure.
Don’t take your heart health for granted. You might think you don’t have high blood pressure, but you can never really know for certain without getting checked by your doctor. Have your cholesterol levels checked regularly, too. You can also ask your doctor about predictive blood test technology that can determine your risk of heart attack by detecting odd-shaped blood cells.
If your answers are mostly B’s
Your answers show that you’re at high risk for heart disease. There are some factors that you just can’t control, like your age. The risk of heart disease in women, for instance, increases after menopause due to changes in cholesterol, blood pressure, and metabolism.
But don’t worry too much, because there are things you can do to lower your risk! If you smoke – stop! If you drink too much, it’s time to limit yourself. We know it’s easier said than done, but you need to try as soon as possible. As the saying goes, getting started is half the battle. Check out Smokefree.gov for great tips on how to stop smoking and get help for problems with alcohol at the National Institute for Aging.
Two other important steps: Manage what you eat and exercise more. An unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle put you at risk for heart-damaging overweight and obesity. They increase the chance you’ll develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes, all of which increase the risk of heart disease. Consult your doctor about eating healthily and losing weight.
There are many medications that help reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, and prevent blood clots. They include diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, beta-blockers, blood thinners, antiplatelet drugs, statins, and fibrates. Work with your doctor to determine what is the best way to protect your heart health.
From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), treatment varies from person to person, because everyone has a different body constitution. For example, people with deficiency patterns would need to strengthen or nourish yin (passive energy) and promote blood circulation. It’s advisable to consult with a TCM physician before your conditions become worse.
Some general tips you can follow to improve your health:
- Avoid oily, deep-fried, and processed foods.
- Limit your sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day – or about 1 teaspoon of salt.
- Look for foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (i.e., salmon), fiber, vitamins and minerals (i.e., legumes), whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
- Exercise at least 30 minutes 4-5 days a week, without overexertion.
- Aim for seven to eight hours of restful sleep nightly.
Natural Supplements for Your Heart Health
You can find a natural health supplement that contains Red Yeast Rice extract and Natto to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Natto is a fiber-rich food made from fermented soybean that helps to support healthy blood vessels and prevent strokes and heart diseases. If you have a busy daily routine, lingzhi extract can reduce fatigue, improve sleep quality, and promote blood circulation.
Also, you could try consuming black garlic or supplements that contain capsaicin, the ingredient that makes chilies spicy. It stimulates the release of nitrous oxide, which dilates blood vessels and helps lower blood pressure. Eating spicy food is also heart-healthy. It triggers the secretion of serotonin and endorphins that relieve stress, another risk factor for heart disease. Adding some spiciness to your food may lift your mood and help you start your journey toward heart disease prevention with a smile.
This is an adaptation of articles, “Risk Factors of Heart Disease” and “Fighting Heart Disease – Part 1 & 2”, which first appeared on Eu Yan Sang website.
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- Insider. 2020. 4 simple stress relief tactics from around the world, from eating spicy food to forest bathing. [Accessed 28 October 2021]
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