By Dr. Jarom Ipson, NMD
February is American Heart Month. Heart Disease (Cardiovascular disease or CVD) —includes all types of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure and is the number 1 killer of women and men in the United States.
Lets take a look at the top risk factors and what you can start doing today to keep your ticker ticking.
- High Blood Pressure – Is often called the “silent killer” because it often has no warning signs or symptoms, if you are not regularly checking your blood pressure you may be at risk. The numbers you should be looking for is 120/80 for your blood pressure. It is estimated that 1/3 or more of Americans have high blood pressure. Aside from diet and exercise which we will cover below there is a natural supplement that has been working really well for our patients in establishing healthy blood pressure levels. Get it here.
- Inflammation – Details are still being studied but it seems that inflammation could be an underlying cause in almost all aspects of heart disease. Cardiologists routinely run labs that show inflammation levels in your blood. The most common inflammatory marker is CRP but there are others. Knowing where your inflammation levels are at is the first step. Talk to your doctor or call our office and we can schedule you for a blood draw.
- Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes – When your blood sugar levels are outside of normal range they cause damage to the lining of your blood vessels this damage then leads to inflammation and other complications. Optimal fasting glucose levels are below 87 and an optimal HbA1C is below 5.2. A major portion of diabetics and pre-diabetics don’t even know that they have those respective diseases. If you are overweight and have cravings for sugary or starchy foods you may fall into this category.
- Smoking – Let just be clear, smoking is so bad for you, it may be the worst thing you can do for your health. Everyone who smokes should quit.
- Nutritional Deficiencies – Your heart muscles need nutrients to function. There are too many nutrients to list but here are some major categories and ideas where to find them. Omega 3’s and healthy fats (fish oils and avocados), antioxidants (Lycopene in tomatoes or resveratrol), Vitamins (all but especially Vitamin E), proteins (get a variety of sources to get all the amino acids you need), minerals (all very important but selenium is a good place to start). Not feeding your heart the foods it needs to function and heal will weaken it day by day.
- Being Overweight or Obese – Being overweight or obese is not only a risk factor itself but it also increases your likelihood of having other risk factors as well. In studies waist circumference is one of the most predictive measurements of heart issues. Men are at an increased risk at above 37 inches and high risk above 40 inches, Women have an increased risk above 31.5 inches and a high risk over 34.5 inches. For instructions on how to measure, go here. If your reading doesn’t come out where it needs to be now is the time to start making a change.
- Being Physically Inactive – Being active will positively affect all aspects of your life. And greatly reduces a large portion of the risk factors on this list. If you are already physically active a type of exercise called High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been shown to improve cardiovascular function even more than regular ‘cardio’ and you can complete a whole workout in less than 20 min. If you are not physically active start today with just a simple walk or a beginners yoga DVD. At first your body won’t like the change but fight through and you won’t regret it.
- Genetics and a Family History – This category is something that most people think you cannot change. True you can’t change your genes or the fact that your father had a heart attack but you can change how much of a risk factor it is for you. Your genes are more of a blueprint, while what we do, eat, think, and experience actually determine who we become. Knowing your genetics and family history is very important because it allows you to know what might be coming and areas where you need to put an extra focus on prevention. So what can you do about it? Like I said you can’t change you genes but you can not let you genes change you.
- Uncontrolled Stress or Anger – John’s Hopkins hospital did a study which showed that if you are quick to anger you are more likely to develop heart disease and up to 5 times more likely to have and early heart attack. It is often overlooked how anger and stress impact our health. One simple thing you can do is take 20 min a day to rest your mind and relax.
- Diet – Diets high in carbs (sugars and starches) and high in Sodium (salt) have been linked to heart disease. While diets focus on plant nutrition have been shown to reverse and prevent heart disease. I’m not saying you need to go vegetarian or on a juice fast, that is between you and your doctor. You can start today by eating more vegetables. The goal is to get at least 9 servings of different types of vegetable daily. (I know, that’s a lot) start out by trying to eat 5 servings of veggies per day. A serving varies based on the type of veggies. But it can range from a half of a large tomato to a large salad’s worth of lettuce. And no pizza sauce and ketchup do not count as vegetables unless you are making them from scratch.
- Hormone Levels – As we age our hormone levels decline and our risk for heart attack rises. In women studies have been done that shows estrogen replacement after menopause can lower your risk for heart attack. In men testosterone replacement has been shown to lower your risk for heart disease and improved recovery after a heart attack. If you are unsure of your hormone levels you can start by getting them checked today.
- High Blood Cholesterol – Cholesterol is often the first risk factor that get brought up, while it is important there are other issues that have already been mentioned which are greater risk factors. Cholesterol is a vital nutrient to each of our cells and in reality and HDL or and LDL or not good or bad (they are not even actually cholesterol but special proteins the body makes to transfer cholesterol around). One test we do for patients who do have cholesterol issues is run a LPP or NMR test which takes a closer look at your cholesterol picture and determine if the types or HDL or LDL are actually good or bad. Based on those results we determine the best fit to help with your cholesterol if needed. The LPP test is included in our Heart Health Assessment package. If you are looking for something to start doing today to help cholesterol levels it would be to eat more vegetables, the fiber they contain helps to prevent cholesterol recycling in your digestive tract. Optimal fiber intake is at least 35 grams of fiber daily.
- Alcohol Consumption – Drinking more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day in women has been shown to increase a number of risk factors already on the list; high blood pressure, obesity, stroke and a number of other health issues. If you do drink be sure to do so in moderation and if you don’t drink now isn’t the time to start.
There is no changing the fact that heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. But addressing all these risk factors can affect how heart disease will affect your life.
For the Month of February we are going to be having a special Heart Health Assessment Package. The package includes complete lab tests and a visit with one of our doctors to review all of your individual risk factors and to develop a prevention plan.
For more info call the office at (480) 636-1068.