The world’s leading cause of death is a silent killer. This single cause of death surpasses others by hundreds of thousands of cases every year, and what it is may surprise you. It isn’t talked about nearly enough, and its symptoms are often ignored or avoided by people, especially women.
What is the leading cause of death in the United States and the world? The answer is cardiovascular disease. Year after year, and for over a decade, heart disease remains at the top of the list of the world’s deadliest causes. Heart disease together with cancer, the world’s second leading cause of death, make up about a whopping 46% of deaths across the United States.
What is cardiovascular disease? Heart disease consists of cardiovascular conditions that include blood clots, diseased vessels, and heart structural problems.
What are some of the most common types of cardiovascular disease? Coronary artery disease, cardiac arrest, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, arrhythmia, stroke, and congenital heart disease are the most common heart conditions that attribute to heart disease.
Exactly how many people are dying from heart disease each year world wide? Nearly 20 million people die from cardiovascular disease each year, which is an estimated 31% of all deaths worldwide.
Symptoms of heart disease vary from person to person, as there are several types of heart disease. Symptoms of heart disease in blood vessels will include chest pain, shortness of breath, numbness, weakness, and jaw pain to name a few. Heart disease symptoms caused by arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms, include chest pain, fluttering sensation, racing heart (tachycardia), a slow heartbeat (bradychardia), dizziness, and shortness of breath.
Heart defects can cause symptoms such as cyanosis which is pale blue/gray skin color, and swelling in the legs and abdomen. Weak heart muscle, or dilated cardiomyopathy, produces sometimes mild symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, irregular heart beats, and swelling of legs.
Heart disease affects both men and women, yet the symptoms can sometimes vary between the two sexes. According to the American Heart Association, the main symptom of a heart attack for both men and women is chest pain and discomfort. Even though a heart looks the same in both men and women, there are some important differences.
Women’s hearts are smaller, as are interior chambers, and the walls dividing the chambers is thinner than men’s. A man’s heart pumps slower than a woman’s, but ejects about 10% more blood with each contraction.
Women have certain risk factors for coronary artery disease that men do not. For instance, studies show that endometriosis raises the risk of coronary artery disease in women by 400%. Men generally experience a crushing pain right before a heart attack, whereas women will develop milder symptoms weeks prior to a heart attack such as extreme fatigue, neck, back, and jaw pain, sweating, and shortness of breath.
For both men and women, it’s never too late to lower your risk of a heart attack. Here are 5 simple ways to boost your heart health today!
1. Exercise Daily
Doctors recommend activity and exercise for at least 30 minutes each day. Physical activity allows better blood flow, reducing the chances of clotting and stroke. Exercise increases levels of good cholesterol, which flushed out artery clogging cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease.
You don’t have to run a marathon, or live in the gym to reduce your risk of heart disease. Walking, light jogging, and swimming are excellent choices of physical activity to boost your heart health. According to cardiologist studies, exercise can even reverse damage to an unhealthy heart. Read 5 Ways To Exercise When You Are Not Motivated to help you get moving!
2. Quit Smoking
Smoking is a huge risk factor for coronary heart disease. Contaminants in cigarette smoke damage the heart’s blood vessels, but also causes heart rate and blood pressure to increase, increasing the risk of stroke.
Research shows that smoking tightens arteries. Arteries supply the heart muscle with blood rich in oxygen. When arteries are clogged, there is a reduction in blood flow to the heart. Chemicals in cigarette smoke can even damage the lining of these arteries. According to studies, your risk of developing heart disease increases to a heaping 24% if you are a smoker!
Talk to your doctor about prescription medications that reduce cigarette cravings. Other tips to help you quit smoking are patches, and nicotine gum.
3. Eat Whole, Nutritious Foods
What can you eat to reduce your risk of developing heart disease and having a heart attack? Well according the the American Heart Association, daily fruits, vegetables, and fiber rich whole grains are important to have in your diet.
Studies suggest consuming healthy fats, such as fatty fish as least twice a week can help prevent heart disease. Healthy fats such as avocados, leafy greens, dark chocolate, nuts and seeds are all great healthy choices to incorporate into your diet.
What kind of food should you avoid if you are at risk for heart disease? Heavily processed foods, tons of sugary foods, and saturated fats should be avoided. Gradually, high amounts of salt, sugar, saturated fats, and refined carbohydrates contribute to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.
For tips on eating healthy, check out 3 Ways To Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy .
4. Manage Stress
How does stress affect the heart? And why is stress management so important for individuals at risk of heart disease?
Chronic stress is very bad for the heart. Stress and anxiety are linked with high blood pressure, and studies show stress can actually change the way blood clots. When stress hormones increase blood pressure, they cause your heart rate to increase, and your blood vessels to narrow.
Stress and mental health issues may even cause atrial fibrillation symptoms to worsen, studies suggest. Emotional and mental stress has been linked to heart attacks.
Managing stress in healthy ways is extremely important for heart health. Exercising, stretching, and yoga can be great stress relievers and mood boosters, as well as eating healthy balanced meals. Prayer, meditation, or even a quick walk can relieve stress. Try listening to music, or taking a nap to help manage stress.
5. Reduce Alcohol Consumption
Reducing your alcohol consumption can help lower your risk of developing cardiomyopathy, which is a disease of the heart muscle. High, or even regular, alcohol consumption can damage your heart muscle.
Regular alcohol use is also linked to high blood pressure. High blood pressure, high heart rate, and arrhythmias caused by heavy alcohol consumption all increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Remember, it’s never too late to increase your chances of a healthy life, boost your heart health, and lower your risk of developing heart disease.