Heart disease is a disorder of the heart's blood vessels. When an artery becomes blocked and prevents oxygen and other nutrients from getting to the heart, a heart attack is the likely result.
In the U.S., close to 2,000 people die each day — one person every 40 seconds — due to heart disease. It is also the number one killer of women.
"Heart disease is a lifelong condition that can lead to death," says Dr. Jyotu Sandhu, a family medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. "It is important to understand your risk factors and take action to prevent and control the disease."
There are two types of risk factors related to heart disease: modifiable and non-modifiable. Non-modifiable risk factors include your age, gender, family history and ethnicity.
On the other hand, there are several factors that are within your control, such as:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Poor diet
- Chronic inflammation
"Patients with a greater risk of heart disease should know their numbers, meaning their blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose and body mass index," says Dr. Sandhu. "Understanding whether they are within a healthy or unhealthy range can indicate what lifestyle changes may need to be made."
Give your heart some TLC
Therapeutic lifestyle changes, or TLC, are diet and exercise modifications you can make to improve your health and decrease your risk of heart disease.
Diet changes include limiting your sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day (the equivalent of one teaspoon); choosing healthy unsaturated fats over saturated and trans fats; limiting sugar to two tablespoons per day; and increasing fiber, fruits and vegetables in your diet.
Exercise is also imperative when striving to reduce your risk of heart disease. Exercise helps decrease stress, anxiety and depression, while also building strength and endurance.
"Healthy living can lead to a healthy heart," Dr. Sandhu says. "Watch what you eat — decrease your intake of processed foods and increase fruits and vegetables — exercise daily and don't smoke to reduce your risk of heart disease."
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