The Grapevine

Heart Disease Prevention: As More Americans Face Risk, Safety Tips To Follow

Nearly half of all adults in the United States have some form of heart or blood vessel disease according to the latest estimates provided by the American Heart Association (AHA).

In other words, 121 million adults have been affected by one or more of the following — arrhythmia, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, narrowing of the arteries, etc.

The figures are a lot higher compared to data from previous years. But this is largely due to the 2017 change in how high blood pressure is defined, lowered to 130/80 mm Hg from the previous definition of 140/90 mm Hg. Based on these revised groupings, millions more now qualify as having hypertension. 

"My view is that from an insurance standpoint, you may as well say that people with hypertension have heart attacks because hypertension can lead to heart attacks, stroke, and heart failure," Dr. Mariell Jessup, chief science and medical officer at the AHA, explained to TIME.

Nevertheless, experts have said that this should be a wake-up call for those who are not doing enough to control cardiovascular risk factors. Studies have shown higher rates of obesity and sedentary behavior, after all.

If you are at risk, it is important to gain an understanding of your condition and know the potential warning signs of heart-related problems. And, as the study clearly highlights, controlling high blood pressure is a priority.

AHA volunteer president Ivor J. Benjamin, M.D., stated that the elimination of high blood pressure could have a larger impact on cardiovascular disease deaths compared to the elimination of every other factor besides smoking.

Aside from managing your stress levels, ask your doctor about how often you require screenings and examinations related to blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, etc.

It has been stated enough times that healthy food and physical activity are necessary for good health. Dr. Leslie Cho, a cardiologist from the Cleveland Clinic, emphasizes the importance of maintaining a healthy weight.

"If you lower your body weight you can decrease your blood pressure by about 8 [blood pressure points], and we’re not talking about hundreds of pounds here. We’re talking about as little as 5 percent of your body weight," she told NBC News.

While you do not have to follow a strict eating pattern, you should try to base your meals on the DASH diet or the Mediterranean diet. Importantly, one must avoid trans fats and limit their intake of salt, saturated fats, and refined sugar. On the other hand, here are some of the foods you should aim to include in your plate. 

Last but not least, we are aware that smoking severely damages the arteries, raising the risk of heart attack and stroke. Remember that it is never too late to kick the habit, not just for yourself but for those around you.

Secondhand smoke exposure can make non-smokers 30 percent more likely to develop heart disease or lung cancer. It is a good idea to speak to a professional about smoking cessation programs and look into other resources.

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