Heart disease, the most common cause of death in both men and women in the U.S. and other developed countries, develops gradually over years. It can present with as an acute life-threatening problem or subtly with mild symptoms. Some people are at greater risks than others but the good news is: it can be prevented in many cases.
Risk factors for heart disease are either acquired or inherent. The acquired factors include smoking, physical inactivity, obesity and poor nutrition. Inherent factors are disorders such as diabetes, dyslipidemia, and hypertension. Prevention can either be primary where the causes of heart disease are prevented from occurring or secondary where the disease is controlled to prevent the serious consequences of heart disease such as heart attack and sudden death.
Reduction in heart disease prevalence due to risk factor reduction is effective. There was a 31% reduction in the incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD) in the period 1992-94 compared to the period 1980-82. The bulk of the reduction was due to a 41% reduction in smoking and the other due to improved diet. Risk factor reduction is the way to prevent heart disease. The damage caused by smoking is reversed over time once an individual ceases to smoke. The increased risk caused by smoking is eliminated after 2-3 years of cessation. Quitting cigarettes is the most effective step that can be taken to prevent heart disease. Regular exercise, weight control and proper nutrition are also other primary measures that can be taken to prevent the development of CHD.
If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, dyslipidemia or diabetes then managing your disease is the important first step. Lipid altering medication has been proven to lead to regression of atherosclerotic changes. Blood pressure control eases the work of the heart preventing it from being damaged over time as well over worked in an acute crisis. Diabetes control prevents the development of microvascular damage that can lead to premature death from myocardial infarction, stroke, and kidney failure. If these disorders are uncontrolled then they can lead to myocardial infarction, sudden death, stroke and other life threatening events. There is a wide availability of treatment options to control these common problems.
Heart disease is a prevalent problem but premature death and disability from it can be prevented. The steps outlined above can make the difference between a full healthy life or an early death. We all must die of something eventually but not prematurely. Death from a preventable disease is tragic and short changes our families. Do everything that you can to prevent this.
I hope this article has provided you with information that will help you make wise choices, so you may:
Live healthy, live well and live long!