February is heart health awareness month- a time to address all matters of the HEART. Heart (cardiovascular) health should really be encouraged all year round, not just one month of the year. So, I challenge you all to take this month and all future months to educate yourself further on cardio care. Heart disease is the #1 killer of both women and men. Whether you are in your teens or part of the elderly population, it is vital to always be taking care of your heart. After all, it is said to be one of the hardest working muscles in the body.
What is heart disease?
It is a general term used when the heart is not working optimally due to a structural or functional cause. The Cardiovascular system is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body that delivers oxygen and nutrients and removes metabolic waste. Some forms of heart disease are present from birth (congenital heart disease) and others develop as we age.
When it comes to heart health, prevention is one of the best tools Naturopathic Doctors can offer. Research has shown the positive role that diet, exercise and a healthy lifestyle can have at both preventing and treating heart disease. You may be asking yourself how does one get heart disease and what can you do to stop it? There are several risk factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease – some are modifiable while others are not. The Framingham Risk Calculator is a gender-specific algorithm used to estimate the 10-year risk of developing a heart attack or stroke based on your individual risk factors. Use this online calculator to calculate your risk today!
Top 10 Risk Factors of Heart Disease:
1. Family History
Having a close family member with heart disease can increase your risk for heart disease.
For men the risk increases after 55, while for women the risk increases post-menopause due to the drop in estrogen.
3. Hypertension or high blood pressure
- This is defined as a sustained rise in resting blood pressure to >140/90 mmHg. It is an important risk factor for coronary heart disease and strokes.
4. Other Medical Conditions
- Obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, kidney disease, thyroid disease and endocrine disease are all associated with cardiovascular disease.
Both first-hand and second-hand smoking is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Smoking can contribute to the build-up of plaque in the arteries, increases the risk of blood clots and reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood.
6. Binge Drinking
- This can raise your triglyceride levels can contribute to Cardiovascular disease.
7. Sedentary lifestyle/Lack of physical activity
- Aerobic exercise for 20-60 minutes a day for a minimum of 3 days a week is recommended to improve heart health. However, it is important to note that > 108 minutes per day 7 days a week can actually increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Diets high in animal protein, refined sugars and salt can all increase the risk of heart disease. Females of an older age are most sensitive to the hypertensive effects of dietary sodium so be sure to keep this under wraps!
9. Chronic Stress
- High stress is commonly associated with cardiovascular events like a stroke or a heart attack. High levels of stress can increase cholesterol and high blood pressure making one more prone to heart disease. If you are feeling the effects of stress, check out this blog post for great tips on how to naturally reduce stress and supplements for stress management support!
10. Environmental Factors
Environmental toxins like heavy metals can contribute to the development of heart disease
These 10 risk factors are not intended to diagnose or to treat a disease but to assist you in your overall health care goals. Please see your doctor or health care provider if you feel that you have several risk factors and want to properly assess your health.
Don’t wait for a cardiovascular event like a heart attack or stroke to find you – take the right steps to prevent it now. Some risk factors that are mentioned above cannot be changed, like age and family history. However, things like diet, smoking, excessive alcohol intake, and lack of exercise can all be CHANGED! You can make the changes gradually, one step at a time. But the key is implementing strategies to make these changes now in order to protect your heart and overall health in the long run. Take this risk seriously and take action NOW to reduce your risk. Stay tuned for next week’s article on what we can do to protect our hearts.
Thankfully there are plenty of Heart Health Supplements that can help improve your overall Heart Health. Exercise is an amazing way to keep your heart healthy! Leave us a comment below and let us know what your favourite way to exercise is!
*Blog Written By: Dr. Saira Kassam | 2018*