Seven ways to lower your risk of heart disease

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Study shows how Americans can curb heart disease
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Meeting seven lifestyle factors, or metrics, can help prevent the chances of dying from heart disease, found study that included over 45,000 adults.

Researchers say the chances of dying from heart problems are much lower among people who achieve all seven of the following goals for maintaining cardiovascular health that include:

  • Not smoking
  • Being physically active
  • Keeping blood pressure normal (speak with your doctor)
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Keeping blood sugar levels in check – especially in the presence of diabetes
  • Striving for normal weight to height ratio (body mass index)
  • Eating a healthy diet to include plenty of fruits vegetables, polyunsaturated fats and limited red meat.

One in 3 deaths annually is from heart disease

According to background information in the article, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), “Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of deaths in the United States [greater than 800,000, or about 1 in 3 overall deaths/year], with estimated annual direct and overall costs of $273 billion and $444 billion, respectively.”

Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Sc.M., of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, writes in an accompanying editorial that prevention is the most important part of improving public health.

One simple and important way to stop heart disease is by lowering salt consumption.

Lloyd-Jones also writes, “Advocacy will be needed for new public health and social policies to tilt the playing field toward healthier choices, so more individuals can move from intermediate to ideal levels or maintain ideal cardiovascular health. The debate over this year's farm bill, which will set policy for years to come, represents an opportunity for advocacy for cardiovascular health and a healthier food supply for all. Efforts to reduce sodium in the food supply are ongoing on multiple fronts."

Elizabeth Kucinich, Director, Public and Government Affairs, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, explains the importance of the Farm Bill on her Huffington Post blog:

“Misleadingly referred to as the "Farm Bill," this legislation doesn't benefit the family farmers who grow the bell pepper and squash in your stew. The beneficiaries of agricultural subsidies laid out in this legislation are the corporations that convert crops like corn into corn syrup and soy into feed for the cows and pigs who end up in a McDonald's wrapper”, explaining why heart disease has become a plague in the U.S.

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Farmers who grow the healthiest of foods – fruits and vegetables – aren’t getting the subsidies they need to help Americans eat well to remain free from heart disease.

Kucinich says “ now is the time to speak up” if you don’t want the food market flooded with hot dogs and other junk food while wealthy corporations get their pockets lined in her article titles “How Agriculture Subsidies are Making us Sick”.

Meeting just some of the 7 goals to reduce your chances of dying from heart disease can extend life. In the study, meeting all of the metrics significantly lowered the chances of dying from heart disease.

Staying physically active, reducing salt consumption and substituting red meat for healthier choices of protein can help with weight loss and cholesterol. Each metric overlaps another, in essence.

Just limiting salt could prevent 14,000 deaths each year – something that is easily attainable for the general population. High blood pressure is a major contributor to heart disease.

Lloyd-Jones says consumers, policy makers and clinicians should get active toward supporting heart health. He notes it’s possible to take just one step forward to improve cardiovascular health from poor to intermediate and that “opportunities abound” for primary and secondary prevention. Check out the USDA blog for updates about the Farm Bill 2012 in your area and have your say about healthy food choices that can help you and your family maintain optimal health.

The study clearly outlines 7 ways to prevent dying from heart disease, which can be a challenge given the current food climate in the U.S. Affordable fresh fruits and vegetables, access to ‘green areas’ for exercise and getting the salt out of processed and packaged food could improve cardiovascular health in the U.S. Unfortunately, few people accomplish all seven goals. The study authors say getting there will take a "concerted effort", but could be done one step at a time.

JAMA
doi:10.1001/JAMA.2012.361
"Trends in Cardiovascular Health Metrics and Associations With All-Cause and CVD Mortality Among US Adults"
Quanhe Yang, PhD, et al.
March 16, 2012

Image credit: Wikimedia commons

Updated 7/28/2014

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