How to beat heart disease
Worried about how your genetic makeup impacts your heart health?
While ethnicity, family background and age all play a role in determining your risk for heart disease, lifestyle choices are a significant factor, too. It’s important to remember that family history isn’t a death sentence.
“Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans, so we need to pay attention to our overall heart health,” says Dr. Dean Ferrera, a cardiologist at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago. “It’s a critical health issue.”
According to the World Health Organization, heart disease kills 7.4 million people each year.
The best way to avoid becoming a statistic is to control your risk factors. Dr. Ferrera recommends these lifestyle choices to help reduce your risk:
- Maintain a healthy diet – Diets which are high in salt and saturated fats increase your risk for heart disease by increasing your cholesterol and your blood pressure.
- Keep your weight in check – Obesity is linked with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Reducing your weight by even small amounts over time can be beneficial.
- Exercise – Physical inactivity increases the risk for many conditions that cause heart disease such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes. Regular exercise protects your heart and has many other health benefits.
- Don’t smoke – Using tobacco in any form increases your risk for heart disease, as tobacco damages the heart and blood vessels. It can be hard to quit smoking, but the health benefits are worth it. Your doctor may be able to prescribe medication to help you quit.
- Minimize alcohol use – Too much alcohol also increases your risk for heart disease. Excess alcohol consumption increases blood pressure as well as the level of triglycerides, a type of cholesterol. Long-term alcohol abuse causes heart failure and arrhythmias.
“When it comes to heart disease, be sure to ask your doctor about preventive care,” says Dr. Ferrera.
About the Author
Matthew Bradley, is an intern with public affairs and marketing at Advocate Trinity Hospital. He is finishing his bachelor’s degree in health administration at Governor’s State University. Matthew lives in the south suburbs and is passionate about music and health care.