Controlling cardiovascular disease risk factors
The phrase "cardiovascular disease" refers to a number of serious health conditions including: coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and heart failure. Collectively, these conditions are responsible for one-third of all deaths in the United States each year.
Some cardiovascular disease risk factors cannot be controlled, such as age and your genetic makeup. However, other risk factors can be managed, and controlling them may help reduce your chances of developing cardiovascular disease.
Here's a look at what you - with the advice and assistance of your healthcare provider - can do to reduce your chances of developing cardiovascular disease:
Monitor your blood pressure. A blood pressure reading of 120/80 is considered normal for adults. A reading of 120-140/80-90 is called pre-hypertension, and hypertension is defined as a reading of 140/90 and above. Because high blood pressure has no symptoms, regular blood pressure checks are important. Left untreated, high blood pressure can damage the kidneys and other organs and increase your risk of other forms of cardiovascular disease.
Watch your diet. Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the blood, and while we need some cholesterol for good health, our bodies produce all that we need. We also get cholesterol by eating animal-based products such as fatty meats, butter, cheese, eggs and whole milk. There are two types of cholesterol:
High-density lipoproteins (HDL), known as "good" cholesterol because they carry extra fat away from the arteries
Low-density lipoproteins (LDL), which cause fat to build up on artery walls and increase the risk of heart disease.
A total cholesterol level below 200 is considered normal for adults.
Control your weight. People who are overweight increase their risk for heart disease. The extra pounds can increase blood cholesterol and blood pressure as well as make the heart work harder to supply oxygen to the body. Being obese also increases the risk of developing diabetes.
Get more exercise. People who lead an inactive lifestyle are at greater risk for developing coronary artery disease. Exercise can strengthen your heart muscle, as well as lower cholesterol, blood pressure and your resting pulse rate.
Don't smoke. Nicotine narrows the blood vessels, which increases your blood pressure and heart rate. Smoking also damages the walls of the arteries by allowing more cholesterol to build and reducing HDL levels in the blood.
Learn how to manage stress. Stress is a normal part of life. However, too much stress can release adrenaline into the blood stream, which can speed up your heart rate, narrow your blood vessels and increase blood pressure. Remember, exercise is one of the best stress reducers.
Want to learn more about controlling your chances of developing cardiovascular disease? Your healthcare provider can screen you for cardiovascular disease and make recommendations to help you keep your cardiovascular system healthy.