How well do you know your own heart

  1. Developing a heart-healthy lifestyle begins with knowledge. By understanding what cardiovascular disease is and how you can prevent it, you can develop some new routines to enjoy a healthier lifestyle. 
  2. In the United States and most developed countries, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in men and women, premature or otherwise.
  3. Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella category that includes stroke, coronary heart disease (CHD; also called coronary artery disease), which is a narrowing of the coronary arteries due to a build-up of plaque. Over time, the build-up constricts the normal flow of blood.
  4. The following have been identified as major risk factors for CVD, all of which are modifiable:
    • Smoking
    • Overweight and obesity
    • Unhealthy diet
    • Physical inactivity
    • Dyslipidemia- abnormal level of cholesterol and other lipids.
    • Hypertension- abnormally high blood pressure.
    • Diabetes
  5. Observational studies have consistently shown that individuals consuming diets high in vegetables and fruits, such as the Mediterranean diet, have a reduced risk of CVD.
  6. After CVD, cigarette smoking is the leading avoidable cause of premature death (any death before the age of 75) and a major avoidable cause of premature disability. Evidence indicates that the heart benefits of quitting begin to appear after only a few months and reach that of the nonsmoker in several years, even among older adults. Thus, for CVD, it is never too late to quit, whereas for cancer it is never too early, as the risks relate largely to duration rather than amount currently smoked.
  7. Modest amounts of regular physical activity, such as brisk walking for 20 minutes daily, are associated with significant benefits on risk of CHD. Nonetheless, perhaps less than 20 percent of United States adults achieve this level of daily activity.
  8. In the United States and worldwide, overweight and obesity are overtaking cigarettes as the leading modifiable cause of premature deaths. Data from large prospective cohort studies have consistently shown that individuals with higher body weights have a linear increase in morbidity and mortality from CHD.