Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. About 659,000 people die from heart disease in the US each year. Now, there are some risk factors you may have for heart disease that you cannot change. You may have been born with them and that's it. But there are many risk factors that are actually modifiable, meaning that you can change them. One person dies from heart disease every 36 seconds, which means, we just lost one. So don't you want to know how to reduce your risk factors for heart disease without medication? Keep reading.
Heart disease is indeed the number one killer in the United States. It is number one in both men and women. But the great news is that of the many, many risk factors, some are modifiable or changeable and that's what we're going to talk about. Ways to reduce those risk factors.
Types Of Heart Disease
There are many types of heart disease, but coronary artery disease, or ischemic heart disease, is the one that very commonly can lead to death and to other problems. When we say coronary artery disease, we are talking about the circumstance when the vessels that supply the heart or the coronary arteries are narrowed and they're narrow due to fatty deposits or plaques. Now, when these coronary arteries are narrowed that actually diminishes or limits the supply of blood that goes to the heart muscle, and this can lead to chest pain, tingling in the chest, chest tightness, shortness of breath, or even a heart attack.
Risk Factors For Heart Disease
Now, I mentioned that some risk factors are non-modifiable, meaning that you can't change them. So I'll go ahead and mention those before I get into the other ones. The non-modifiable risk factors are:
- Increased Age - especially over the age of 65 - Now, if you are younger than 65, do know that young people can still have heart attacks. So I want you to continue to read this.
- Male Gender - Males are more likely to have heart disease than females and males tend to get heart disease at an earlier age than females.
- Hereditary - your genetics, or your family history. If your parents have heart disease, that's a risk factor. You can't change that.
- Genetic Predisposition - like if you have familial hypercholesterolemia or high cholesterol, even if you exercise, even if you eat right, it's just high based on your genetics.
The good news is that there are many, many modifiable factors. Meaning you do have some control over these. You can change them, you can reduce them. And that's what we talking about, how to reduce these risk factors without medication.
Modifiable Risk Factors
Modifiable risk factors include:
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
- Being A Person Living With Obesity, or With Being Overweight
- Being A Smoker
- Physical Inactivity or Having A Sedentary Lifestyle
According to the American Heart Association, you should be doing moderate exercise for about 150 minutes per week (30 minutes 5 days), or vigorous, intense exercise for 75 minutes per week. And the exercise can really vary. If you're doing moderate exercise, it doesn't have to just be you going to a gym all day and doing intense, intense, intense exercise.
It can be a matter of taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Instead of getting that parking space that's close to a store, purposely park far away so that you can walk. It can be even if you're an intense cleaner and you work up a sweat while you're vacuuming, you can count that, get yourself a smart device, and count those in your steps and in your exercise.
Exercise can reduce your risk for heart disease in a number of ways.
- It can help to decrease your blood pressure. Remember high blood pressure was one of those modifiable risk factors.
- It can help your blood vessels to dilate, which can lower that blood pressure.
- Exercise can also help to decrease your abdominal fat and having abdominal obesity puts you at risk for diabetes, which is another modifiable risk factor for heart disease.
- Exercise can also help to reduce your stress because it increases the body's norepinephrine, which helps to manage your stress. It also decreases the stress hormone cortisol.
2. Maintain A Healthy Body Weight
If you are a person who is living with obesity, or if you are overweight, these are risks of heart disease. So you want to know your BMI and you certainly want to consult your physician to find out what weight is a healthy weight for you. But just generally speaking, a BMI that is greater than 25, but less than 30 means that you are overweight. And a BMI that is greater than 30, means that you are a person who is living with obesity. You definitely want to figure out ways to get to that healthy weight, be it with exercise, eating a healthy diet, reducing certain stress hormones that may make you hold on to stomach fat or back fat, things of that nature.
3. Stop Smoking
When you smoke tobacco cigarettes, you are inhaling all kinds of toxins. You're inhaling carbon monoxide. You're inhaling tar. You're inhaling nicotine. Now, when you inhale that nicotine, it can cause your heart rate to increase and it can cause your blood pressure to go up. And of course, high blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease.
Also, smoking cigarettes can cause the lining of your heart arteries, those coronary arteries, to be sticky, and can cause inflammation. This can lead to more fatty deposits, more plaques, more calcifications, more platelets, and more blockage of the heart arteries.
4. Fish Oil
I actually love mentioning fish oil because it's actually the only food endorsed by the American Heart Association to reduce the risk of heart disease. Now, when they endorse fish oil, they're talking about Omega-3s from fish and from fish oil. Having fish oil has been shown to reduce your risks for sudden cardiac events like heart attacks and strokes. And if you're a person who specifically has high triglycerides, then the high dose EPA is recommended. Make sure you consult your physician or consult with your cardiologist.
5. Reduce Your Stress
When you are stressed out, that causes your stress hormones to rise, like cortisol and adrenaline, which can cause an increase in blood pressure. It can cause those heart vessels even to tighten or to squeeze, which increases your risk for heart disease. And so you want to find ways to reduce your stress. You can do this by having slow, deep breathing, which can slow down the heart rate, dilate the blood vessels, and reduce your stress.
You can also do other breathing practices. You could do meditation or yoga. You could really try to shift your mind into a positive mindset by focusing on the good, doing positive self-affirmations, and positive self-reflection.
6. Heart-Healthy Diet
You want to eat a diet where most of your calories are plant-based, coming from fruits, vegetables, legumes. And if indeed you do eat meat, make sure it's lean meat such as fatty fish, salmon, mackerel, or tuna. And if you do eat chicken, you want to eat white meat with no skin. If you do eat beef, then you want to make sure it's not a fatty beef, nothing that's very heavily marbled, but something more like a lean sirloin.
And having this heart-healthy diet can help you to maintain that healthy body weight and to avoid being a person living with obesity. A heart-healthy diet can also help to decrease cholesterol and decrease some of the fatty deposits on blood vessels.
One interesting thing about a heart-healthy diet, there was a study published in the Journal of American College of Cardiologists, and it actually showed that eating chili peppers, these hot peppers, can reduce heart attacks. Consult with your physician, but make sure that you eat a heart-healthy diet.
7. Get Enough Sleep
You want to get enough sleep as another way to reduce your risk factors of heart disease without medicine. Most adults should be getting about seven hours of sleep per night. When you sleep that allows your body to rejuvenate. It helps to decrease your stress and helps to make you more productive and it can decrease your risk for heart disease.
The above seven tips are just the beginning when it comes to the many, many ways to reduce the risk factors for heart disease. If you found this article to be helpful and informative, please be sure to share it with the people you care about. Also, if you haven't done so already, please be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel that way you'll be among the first to know when I release new medical content. Also make sure you follow me on Instagram @dr.frita that way you find out what I'm up to, my everyday life. Plus I give various medical tips on Instagram as well.