One in every four deaths in the U.S. is from heart disease. Every year, more than 700,000 people suffer heart attacks (though they aren't always fatal). In other words, heart disease is a big problem, but it doesn't have to be. There are things we can do to prevent heart disease and its consequences.
One big step is to quit smoking. Within one year of quitting, you reduce your risk for heart disease by half. After 15 years of no smoking, your risk is the same as non-smokers.
Experts aren't sure why, but stress and heart disease are related. The effects of stress seem to heighten the other risk factors for coronary disease. It's important, in working toward heart health, to find ways to manage daily stress. Meditation, exercise, sleep, and mental and emotional support are all ways to get started.
Some of the risk factors for serious heart disease are hidden, so it's important to get regular screenings to look for hidden culprits. Tests for blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes should be part of your annual checkups. If you haven't established your baseline for these factors, talk to your doctor about getting screened.
Because heart disease is often a consequence of other health problems, like high blood pressure and diabetes, one of the best things you can do to prevent coronary problems is to take responsibility for your overall health. Know your health status and address what is needed. Accept that you may need to make changes—and that they are doable and crucial to a longer life.
The biggest risk for heart disease is age. The second biggest risk is genetic makeup. Know where you stand with each of these risks. And talk to your doctor about necessary changes.
Not every promise in pill form is good for your health. In fact, some can be downright dangerous. A part of preventing heart disease is understanding what remedies are safe and which aren't. Herbal and other supplements—pills that aren't regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or required to undergo rigorous testing—can present more of a health risk than heart disease itself. Choose your pills wisely.
It's easy to Google symptoms and treatments, but be careful about the results you get. Treatments, protocols and even our understanding of the disease itself is always evolving. What's important is to stay informed, to look at the latest studies and to talk to your doctor or specialist about your health.
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