Updated: Oct 23
The Ultimate Guide to Heart Disease Prevention
According to the CDC heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US and affects 1 in every 4 Americans. While heart disease can be scary there are many steps, we can take to help prevent it. Let’s walk through our guide to heart disease prevention.
First it’s important to understand the risk factors:
Risk factors include type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, overweight/obese, smoking, high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, family history, men > 45 years old and women post-menopause. Keep in mind the ABCDES of heart disease- alcohol, blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, exercise, smoking. These are the risks and lifestyle changes that you can watch out for to help with heart disease prevention: Avoid excessive alcohol, no more than 5-7 drinks per week. A drink is 12 oz of beer, 5 oz of wine, or 1.5 oz of spirits. Blood pressure is a risk factor if you are prone to having high blood pressure >120 mm Hg / > 80 mm Hg. The DASH diet has been shown to help lower blood pressure and reduce mortality. High cholesterol is also a risk factor when total cholesterol is greater than 200 mg/dl. This can be controlled by reducing saturated fats, butter, coconut oil, palm oil, shortening or lard and replacing them with polyunsaturated fats, olive oil, safflower, canola, corn, soybean, sesame, and sunflower oils. Diabetes is one of the major risk factors. Diet and exercise have been shown to help improve insulin resistance while also helping you to lose weight. It is recommended that you get at least 150 min of moderate aerobic exercise per week. Aerobic exercise includes walking, hiking, running, cycling, swimming, and skating. Lastly, smokers have a much higher risk of heart disease than non-smokers and 3 times the risk of death.
Most of the risk factors can be influenced by what you eat:
Your diet should be focused on vegetables, fresh fruits, lean protein like white meat chicken, healthy fats like avocados, low-fat dairy, and whole grains. Your plate at lunch and dinner should be half filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, a quarter of protein, and a quarter of whole grains. Don’t skip meals as this makes you more likely to overeat or grab fast food while out. Don’t feel like you must be part of the clean plate club, it’s okay to save food not finished for another meal!
If you are found to be at high risk for heart disease:
It used to be the thought that everyone should take aspirin daily to reduce their risk of heart disease, but doctors have since warned against this as it could cause some dangerous side effects. Instead, it's recommended that you take aspirin daily only if you have multiple risk factors, a strong family history, and known plaque buildup in your arteries. Make sure you talk to a doctor before starting an aspirin regimen.
As with everything, it’s important to continually get checkups and see your doctor, especially if you have one or more of the heart disease risks.