As the leading cause of death – accounting for more than 30% of all deaths in the United States – heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases are taking their toll on millions of people, despite the fact that most cases can be prevented.
According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, cardiovascular disease related deaths could actually be cut in half if prevention was more prevalent.
Researchers from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta looked at cardiovascular death rates in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia and tallied the rates of the modifiable risk factors that affect cardiovascular disease – smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Researchers found that 4 out of 5 people in the United States had at least one modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Researchers then looked at what would happen if the risk factors disappeared – if all smoking ended, every obese individual lost weight, etc.
Eliminating these five risk factors would prevent more than half of the U.S. deaths related to cardiovascular disease. Researchers then asked what would happen if the nation could reach the same rate of deaths for cardiovascular disease as the states where the rate is at it’s best. With that reduction, we would see 10% fewer deaths related to cardiovascular disease.
“Since 1960, deaths from cardiovascular disease in the U.S. have been reduced by half,” said cardiologist Dr. Gregory Curfman, Editor in Chief of Harvard Health Publications. “But we still have a long way to go. Further reducing the death rate by focusing on five modifiable risk factors is a critical goal for all Americans.”
Of course risk factors including genetics, age, air pollution and some other factors are impossible to change. Unfortunately, the factors most of us can control go without attention.
Modifiable risk factors are the key cause of heart disease and recognizing how to change your lifestyle could save your life.
The fact is a lack of exercise; a bad diet and other bad habits can damage your heart over time.
Here’s what you can do based on your age to reduce your risk for getting cardiovascular disease:
Eat a Variety of Healthy Foods – Your diet plays a critical role in the risk you have for heart disease and stroke.
To reduce your risk of heart disease, eat a variety of foods and select foods low in saturated fat, trans fat and sodium. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains rich in fiber, fish, nuts, legumes and seeds. Limit calorie-heavy beverages sweetened with sugar and limit how much red meat you eat.
Get Regular Exercise – Like your diet, regular exercise helps support the health of your heart. Combining regular cardio exercise with strength training offers the biggest benefits. Exercise helps to strengthen your heart and offers so many benefits when it comes to your entire health.