by Elisa Olivier-Nielsen, MA, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, EON Consulting
Cardiovascular disease remains the No.1 cause of death among men — estimated 1 in every 4 in the U.S.
Heart disease is a broad term used to describe conditions negatively affecting the function or structure of the heart, blood vessels or the flow of oxygen or nutrients to the heart. Generally, the top five diseases are coronary artery disease (artery blockage), heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and heart failure.
In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds with about 1 in 5 heart attacks being silent. A silent heart attack often is associated with no symptoms, minimal symptoms or even unrecognized symptoms (i.e., indigestion, flu symptoms, excessive and prolonged fatigue) causing the event to go untreated, resulting in permanent damage to the affected area of the heart.
Depending on the type of heart disease, symptoms may vary from digestive issues (nausea, vomiting, heartburn), to shortness of breath, to pain (back, jaw, chest), to cold sweats, to numbness and weakness in your arms and legs, and even paleness, dizziness and fainting episodes.
Beyond a birth defect, heart infection, enlarged heart or a defective heart valve, these are risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing heart disease:
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol
- Overweight and obesity
- Unhealthy diet
- Physical inactivity
- Excessive alcohol use
- Family history of heart disease
A more recent correlation now has been identified between COVID-19 and heart disease. Not only can COVID-19 cause cardiac complications, but preexisting heart disease risk factors also can potentially increase the risk of more severe forms of COVID-19.
There are steps to take to prevent the onset of heart disease or improve your current heart health:
- Avoid alcohol
- Quit smoking
- Manage stress
- Get at least seven hours of good quality sleep nightly
- Engage in regular physical activity
- Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean protein rich-foods
- Stay well hydrated with plenty of water
- Avoid excessive intake of caffeinated beverages
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Enjoy the outdoors; get daily sun exposure for at least 15 minutes (preferably before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m.)
- Ditch your salt shaker, embrace more herbs and spices
- Prevent or treat your other health conditions, especially high blood pressure, high blood lipids, and diabetes.
Stay tuned; next month I will address heart-friendly tips for the holidays!