(Fox News) As we approach the beginning of 2016, it would seem prudent to consider some sage advice about the issue of heart disease that continues to be the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States leading to about 600.000 deaths every year (or 1 of every 4 deaths). So, what are some of the issues related to heart disease risk factors that are amenable to change?
Several health conditions, your lifestyle, and your age and family history can increase your risk for heart disease. These are called risk factors. About half of all Americans (47 percent) have at least one of the three key risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. It is a medical condition that occurs when the pressure of the blood in your arteries and other blood vessels is too high. The high pressure, if not controlled, can affect your heart and other major organs of your body, including your kidneys and brain.
High blood pressure is often called a “silent killer” because many people do not notice symptoms to signal high blood pressure. Lowering blood pressure by changes in lifestyle or by medication can reduce your risk for heart disease and heart attack.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made by the liver or found in certain foods. Your liver makes enough for your body’s needs, but we often get more cholesterol from the foods we eat. If we take in more cholesterol than the body can use, the extra cholesterol can build up in the walls of the arteries, including those of the heart. This leads to narrowing of the arteries and can decrease the blood flow to the heart, brain, kidneys, and other parts of the body.
Some cholesterol is “good,” and some is “bad.” High cholesterol is the term used for high levels of low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, which are considered “bad” because they can lead to heart disease. A higher level of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or HDL, is considered “good” because it provides some protection against heart disease.
A blood test can detect the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides (a related kind of fat) in your blood.
Diabetes mellitus also increases the risk for heart disease. Your body needs glucose (sugar) for energy. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that helps move glucose from the food you eat to your body’s cells. If you have diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin, can’t use its own insulin as well as it should, or both.
Diabetes causes sugars to build up in the blood. The risk of death from heart disease for adults with diabetes is two to four times higher than adults who do not have diabetes. You should check with your doctor on ways to manage diabetes (including a possible referral to a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, if indicated). Check with your doctor about ways to control other risk factors.
More in-depth information on diabetes, cholesterol and high blood pressure can be accessed at the following links:
High blood pressure: http://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/index.htm
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