Many people count on you every day: your children, your significant other, your employer and coworkers, your closest friends and even your parents as they age.
While you’re busy focusing on those who count on you, you probably don’t realize how much you count on your heart. Every day, your heart beats about 100,000 times, circulating 2,000 gallons of blood.1 By the time you reach age 70, your heart will have contracted more than 2.5 billion times!2
So while you’re taking care of all the people who rely on you, make sure you’re also taking care of your hardworking heart! In celebration of American Heart Month, we’re sharing some helpful information about heart disease, plus ways you can lead a heart-healthy life. Take a moment to dive into the information—and also be sure to share with your friends and family!
The impact of heart disease
Heart disease goes by many names—coronary heart disease, congenital heart disease, arrhythmia, heart attack, congestive heart failure—but no matter what form it takes, heart disease can develop at any age. Heart disease can lead to constant fatigue, stress, depression, organ damage or failure, blocked blood vessels, disability, and death. In fact, heart disease is the number one cause of death among men and women in the U.S.,3 with someone dying every 38 seconds on average from heart disease.4 What’s more, more than 92 million Americans—more than 1-in-3 adults—have one or more types of cardiovascular disease.5
What causes heart disease?
So what’s behind heart disease? Some individuals are genetically more likely to develop heart-related illnesses. However, many risk factors are controllable habits, behaviors, and conditions. Here are four risk factors that can cause heart disease:
- Tobacco use: Use of tobacco products and exposure to secondhand smoke contribute to about 480,000 deaths every year.6 In addition to nicotine, which is what makes tobacco addictive, tobacco products can contain up to 7,000 other ingredients, such as arsenic, methanol, formaldehyde, hexamine, and lead.7 If you use tobacco products, you’re willingly consuming these ingredients!
- Obesity: Obesity is an epidemic in the U.S. across all age groups. Among children ages two through 19, 33.4% are overweight or obese. The prevalence rises to 39.8%–or 93.3 million people—when it comes to adults.8 Extra pounds can lead to an increased risk of many health problems, including heart disease.
- Diabetes: Diabetes occurs when the body cannot properly produce or process insulin. As a result, the blood and urine of a diabetic individual carry abnormally high levels of sugar. Diabetes can lead to an array of health complications, including heart disease, limb amputation, stroke, blindness and kidney failure.9
- High blood pressure: Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure can cause damage inside your body for years before you notice any symptoms. When hypertension isn’t controlled, it increases the pressure of blood flowing through your arteries heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes. High blood pressure is widespread, affecting more than 45% of U.S. adults,10 yet some 13 million adults with hypertension aren’t even aware they have it and are not receiving treatment.11
How to fight heart disease
Are you ready for some good news? You have the power to choose healthy habits today that will help keep your heartbeat strong for a lifetime! No matter your age or stage in life now is the right time to establish good habits—and break bad ones—to improve your heart health. Here are four ways you can strive to improve your heart health, starting today.
Say no to smoking.
Cigarette smokers are two to four times more likely to develop heart disease than nonsmokers.12 However, no matter how long or how much you’ve smoked, you can reduce your risk for heart disease by quitting now.13 It can be hard to quit on your own, so if you need help, reach out to your doctor.
Once you quit, you’ll also achieve another important effect: You’ll save your friends and family from the dangers of secondhand smoke as well!
Manage your conditions.
Chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol greatly increase your risk of heart disease. If you have a health condition that may cause heart disease, follow your doctor’s advice to achieve and maintain optimal health. Many conditions linked to heart disease can be improved through exercise, healthy eating, prescribed medications, and regular medical care.
You should also become your own best health advocate. Learn as much as you can about your health conditions and about what you can do to live well.
Fuel your health.
As shared above, extra pounds can add up to an increased number of health problems, including heart disease. Do your best to make smart food decisions. Try to resist fats, sugars, and salts, while also doing your best to fill up on foods that are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Turn down salty, processed foods in favor of fresh produce and lean meats. Talk to your doctor about how many calories you should consume each day. For example, a 45-year-old woman with a sedentary lifestyle shouldn’t eat more than 1,800 calories per day, according to the USDA.14
According to the American Heart Association, adults should get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity.15 Make it fun! Swimming, cycling, dancing and mall walking can all get you moving, burning calories and improving your heart health.
The heart of the matter
By following these guidelines, you’ll make positive strides toward improving your health and reducing your risk of developing heart disease.
Talk to your Washington National agent to learn more or contact us here.
1American Heart Association, Heart, How It Works, https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Affiliate/Heart-How-It-Works_UCM_428843_Article.jsp?appName=MobileApp, accessed January 2019.
3American Heart Association, Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2018 Update: A Report from the American Heart Association, 2018.
7Tobacco-Free Life, Types of Tobacco Products, http://tobaccofreelife.org, accessed July 2018.
8Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Adult Obesity Facts, June 12, 2018.
9Mayo Clinic, Type 2 Diabetes, www.majoclinic.com, January 3, 2018.
10American Heart Association, Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2018 Update: A Report from the American Heart Association, 2018.
11Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Undiagnosed Hypertension, accessed July 2018.
12FDA, Heart Health and Smoking, https://www.fda.gov/tobaccoproducts/publichealtheducation/healthinformation/ucm432339.htm, November 20, 2018.
13National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, What are the Benefits of Quitting Smoking? https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/smoking-and-your-heart, accessed January 2019.
14USDA, Estimated Calories Needs per Day by Age, Gender, and Physical Activity Level, accessed January 2019.
15American Heart Association, Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids, https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults, April 18, 2018.