What is heart disease?
Heart disease is sometimes called coronary heart disease (CHD).
It is the leading
cause of death among adults in the United States. Learning about the causes
and risk factors of the disease may help you avoid heart problems.
Causes of heart disease
Heart disease occurs when plaque develops in the arteries
and blood vessels that lead to the heart. This blocks important nutrients and oxygen
from reaching your heart.
Plaque is a waxy substance made up of cholesterol, fatty
molecules, and minerals. Plaque accumulates over time when the inner lining of
an artery is damaged by high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, or elevated
cholesterol or triglycerides.
Several risk factors play an important role in determining
whether or not you’re likely to develop heart disease. Two of these factors, age
and heredity, are out of your control.
The risk of CHD increases around the age of 55 in women and
45 in men. Your risk may be greater if you have close family members who have a
history of heart disease.
Other risk factors for heart disease include:
resistance or diabetes
cholesterol and blood pressure
history of heart disease
an unhealthy diet
Unhealthy lifestyle choices
Though genetic factors can increase your risk of developing
heart disease, unhealthy lifestyle choices also play a big role.
Some unhealthy lifestyle choices that can contribute to
heart disease include:
a sedentary lifestyle and not getting enough physical exercise
an unhealthy diet that is high in fat proteins, trans fats, sugary foods, and
in a high-stress environment without proper stress management techniques
managing your diabetes
Link between heart disease
and type 2 diabetes
It is estimated
that people with type
2 diabetes, and especially those who have reached middle age, are twice as
likely to have heart disease or experience a stroke as people who do not have
Adults with diabetes tend to have heart attacks at a younger
age and are more likely to experience multiple heart attacks if they have
insulin resistance or high blood glucose levels.
The reason for this is the relationship between glucose and
blood vessel health.
High blood glucose levels that aren’t managed can increase
the amount of plaque that forms within the walls of the blood vessels,
hindering or stopping the flow of blood to the heart.
If you have diabetes, you can reduce the risk of heart
disease by managing your blood sugar carefully. Follow a diabetes-friendly diet
that’s rich in fiber and low in sugar, fat, and simple carbohydrates.
You should also maintain a healthy weight. If you smoke, now’s a good time to consider quitting. Managing
your blood sugar levels can prevent heart disease, eye disease, and circulation
have shown that individuals suffering from depression develop heart disease at higher
rates than the general population.
Depression can lead to a number of changes in your body that
can increase your risk for developing heart disease or having a heart attack.
Too much stress and or consistently feeling sad can elevate your blood pressure
and your levels of a substance called C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is a marker
for inflammation in the body. Higher-than-normal levels of CRP have also been
shown to predict coronary heart disease.
Depression can also lead to a decreased interest in daily
activities, including daily routines like exercise that are necessary to help prevent
heart disease. This can lead to unhealthy behavior, such as skipping
medications, not putting effort into eating a healthy diet, drinking too much
alcohol, or smoking cigarettes.
Talk with your doctor if you’re feeling depressed.
Professional help can get you back on the path to good health and may reduce
the possibility of recurring problems.
Heart disease is dangerous, but it can be prevented in many
cases. Everyone would benefit from maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle, but
it is particularly important for those with increased risk.
The following strategies can help prevent heart disease:
- exercise regularly
- maintain a healthy diet
- maintain a healthy weight
- reduce stress in your life
- stop smoking
- drink in moderation
- get annual physicals from your doctor to detect
abnormalities and assess risk factors
- take supplements, as advised by your doctor
- know the warning signs of heart disease, heart
attacks, and strokes
Living a healthy lifestyle is one of the most effective ways
you can prevent heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. Preventing heart
disease should be a priority whether you’re in your 20s or in your 60s.