She should have known better. She had two of the major indicators of a future heart problem. High blood pressure and high cholesterol. Instead of following the suggestions of her doctor and getting more exercise and eating a more healthy diet, she simply relied on the daily medications to control her cholesterol and blood pressure. Unfortunately, a near heart attack situation forced her to finally visit a cardiology office and get the grim diagnosis. In addition to being one of the 90% of women who have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease, she was now in an even higher risk category. The heart specialist told her that she had to make some serious life changes to avoid moving to the next stage of heart disease.
High blood pressure, elevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. Alarmingly, about half of Americans have at least one of these three risk factors. Of these, an estimated 43 million women in America are affected by heart disease.
According to the American Heart Association, changing your lifestyle is the best way to decrease your chance of having a heart attack. The basic lifestyle changes you need to make include:
- Quit smoking. This is one of the leading causes of heart attack. Even if someone else in your home smokes, they can be increasing your chance of heart disease.
- Switch to a good nutrition plan. A healthy diet is one of the very best weapons to fight cardiovascular disease, congenital heart disease, and other heart problems. The food you eat, and the amount you eat directly affect other risk factors: cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
- Include physical activity in your daly routine. Research shows that three to four exercise sessions a week can help lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and keep your heart more healthy.
- Work toward a healthy weight. Obesity is a major problem in America for both adults and children. A cardiologist will tell you that good nutrition, controlling calories and physical activity are the only ways to achieve a healthy weight.
- Limit alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure and the risk of stroke, cancer, and other diseases. Too much alcohol can also contribute to high triglycerides and produce irregular heartbeats. Additionally, excessive alcohol consumption can also contribute to obesity, alcoholism, suicide and accidents.
Any cardiology office visit will include a preventative discussion of all of these easily manageable lifestyle changes. Unfortunately, what sounds like common sense when you are in a cardiology appointment is anything but easy when patients leave the office. It’s your choice. You can make the decisions that decrease your chance of heart disease or you can continue the unhealthy lifestyle that puts you at risk.