American Heart Month
Since 1964, American Heart Month has served as a reminder to the millions of Americans that suffer from heart issues or are at risk for heart issues. Heart disease is far and away the leading cause of death in the United States. Heart disease even outpaces cancer in overall cause of death numbers; in 2017 alone 633,842 people died due to heart disease. That is 1,736 Americans a day, or an average of 1 death every 38 seconds.
I know that the first paragraph paints a pretty bleak picture of living with heart disease, but it’s not quite as black and white as the numbers may make it appear. Roughly 80% of ALL heart disease is entirely preventable with a proactive approach to heart health and proper education. In the other 20% of cases, unavoidable genetic issues or heart disease as a side effect can still be minimized by proper care.
What Causes Heart Disease?
Heart disease can include problems like heart failure, heart arrhythmia, and heart attack, and is defined by the heart beating ineffectively, causing impaired circulation. High blood pressure is a major contributor to heart disease and actually causes most cases. Essentially, the higher your blood pressure is, the harder your heart has to work to effectively pump blood throughout your body. Sustained high blood pressure puts your heart through such significant pressure that it often begins presenting symptoms that are irreversible if ignored.
Another major factor in developing heart disease is Atherosclerosis or plaque buildup. Plaque buildup causes your artery walls to thicken and stiffen, which actively inhibits blood flow to your organs and tissues. Like high blood pressure, atherosclerosis is entirely avoidable; as it is typically caused by factors like an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, being overweight or smoking.
A portion of the population with heart disease and issues related to heart disease receive it through unavoidable genetic issues. It is important to note, however, that this number is much smaller than the number of heart disease cases that are entirely avoidable. And even those with genetic predispositions towards heart disease can minimize, and sometimes prevent issues related to their hearts.
Physical activity is a major focus during American Heart Month every year, and for good reason. Increasingly sedentary lifestyles coupled with dietary issues have led to a steadily growing global weight issue. While many lead happy and healthy lives no matter their weight, studies have shown that being overweight actively increases your chances of suffering from heart disease by several degrees of magnitude.
Exercise helps strengthen your heart against the everyday wear and tear involved in serving as the center of your entire circulatory system. The more efficiently it can pump blood, the less likely it is that your heart will develop chronic issues. You don’t need to be an Olympic athlete to improve your heart health either, just make conscious decisions to be physically active in your everyday life.
Some great tips include:
- Long dog walks (this is great for your pup’s health as well!)
- Move around the house while you’re on the phone.
- Exercise in place during at least one episode of your favorite show at night.
- Park further away from the store and walk the longer distance.
- Take the stairs; skip the elevator.
Eat Heart Healthy
In a Previous blog post on Preventing High Blood Pressure, we mentioned the importance of a heart healthy diet in regards to avoiding a full compliment of serious diseases that Americans commonly suffer from. Among those diseases was, of course, heart disease. In that article diet and exercise are described as the closest you can come to a “magic solution” in relation to heart health. It is incredibly rare for anyone that is active and enjoys a healthy diet to experience heart-related issues.
An average American eats 3,400 mg of sodium every single day, that’s 1,100 mg higher than the FDA suggested daily average; which many say is too high in itself. One meal at a standard fast food place is more than enough to place you well over your daily value of sodium. Sodium is an important part of the dietary puzzle, as it accounts for a majority of issues related to high blood pressure.
Another important part of the puzzle is sugar. I know, sugar is the painful one to let go, everyone loves sugar, and it seems like nearly everything has sugar and sodium in it nowadays. The USDA found that the average American eats nearly half a pound of sugar a day on average, that’s 150 pounds of sugar every year. Believe me, I know that number is staggering. But it’s easier to believe when you consider you can’t even eat something as simple as a hamburger without taking in several grams of sugar. Sugar increases blood pressure and has been found to stimulate the liver to dump more harmful fats into the bloodstream according to Harvard Health.
The USDA also found that Americans eat nearly 75 pounds of added fats and oils every year, and the ratio of healthy vs unhealthy fats consumed has gone in the wrong direction in the past several years. High fight diets cause plaque buildup in major arteries and leads to weight gain which can also negatively affect heart health.
Diet can get overwhelming, and the ease and comfort of unhealthy food is a tempting alternative when posed with the concept of revamping how you look at diet. In the interest of keeping it simple, the guide below is a quick and easy reference point for a heart-healthy diet.
- Fruits (NOT fruit juice)
- Chicken, Turkey, & Fish
- Nuts and Legumes
- Natural Oils (Olive, Coconut, Sesame) NOT vegetable oil or peanut oil
Do Not Eat (In Excess)
- Saturated Fats
- Fatty Red Meats
- Sweets and Soda/Alcohol
The most important message you should take away from American Heart Month is that not only can you take control of your heart health, but you can start today! You don’t have to start jogging and shift your diet overnight, but swap out a Big Mac for a homemade chicken fajita and start taking the stairs and you’re well on your way to a healthier heart.
Many of our clients suffer from various stages of heart stages, there is a good chance that you may qualify for a life settlement as well if you have been diagnosed with issues related to the heart. Contact Abacus at 1-800-561-4148, or access our Life Settlement Qualifier to find out today!