Preventing Heart Disease: Is It Possible?
Preventing heart disease is possible to some extent. The risk can never be completely eliminated, but we can take certain measures that help to reduce the possibility of suffering severe cardiovascular diseases.
Mortality due to this particular health issue has been declining steadily in recent years, although they’re still the most frequent causes of death. The two most representative issues are cerebrovascular disease and ischemic heart disease.
What are cardiovascular diseases?
To know how to prevent heart diseases, we must first identify what they are. Heart diseases are a group of diseases included in the category of cardiovascular diseases, of which the most frequent are:
- Cerebrovascular disease: The blood vessels of the brain are affected.
- Coronary heart disease: Located in the vessels that supply the heart muscle. It’s also known as acute coronary syndrome.
- Thrombosis: is the formation of clots in the blood vessels. If the clot stays in place it’s a thrombus, but if it breaks off and travels to another site in the circulatory system it’s an embolus.
- Arteriopathy: These are different medical situations that affect the arteries of the limbs.
- Other heart diseases: Here we have, for example, those of rheumatic origin and congenital heart disease. The former arises as a complication of rheumatic fever, and the latter are present from birth.
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Risk factors for heart disease
Understanding how to prevent heart disease requires knowledge of the risk factors that make it more possible for us to have it. Thus, for cardiovascular diseases, risk factors are classified as non-modifiable and modifiable.
Non-modifiable risk factors
Non-modifiable risk factors are those we can’t do anything about. Age, for example, is a non-modifiable factor. So are sex and belonging to a certain ethnic group.
Researchers have scientifically proven that those over forty years of age are at greater risk, as are men more than women. Another non-modifiable risk factor is family heredity, i.e., a history of heart disease in parents, grandparents and siblings.
Modifiable risk factors
However, we can have an impact on these factors by changing habits or with medication to help control them. We’ll discuss them in more detail below: smoking, diabetes, and blood cholesterol.
Preventing heart diseases with medical measures
There are diseases and physical conditions that favor the onset of heart disease. To prevent a major cardiovascular event, we sometimes need to establish strict control of these preexisting conditions that can lead to mortality.
One of these situations is arterial hypertension. This is a silent disease that, in the long term, decreases blood flow to the heart, overtaxing it in the work of contraction and relaxation.
The end result can be an acute myocardial infarction. In fact, for hypertensive patients, it’s essential to maintain blood pressure values within the normal range.
Diabetes mellitus is another disease that patients and doctors must control in order to prevent heart disease. In diabetes, the amount of glucose that circulates in the blood increases. This sustained increase damages the arteries with the ultimate consequence of reduced blood supply to various organs.
Plasma serum cholesterol values require monitoring, at least annually, in healthy adults, and more frequently in people with cardiovascular risk.
When cholesterol is high, it’s deposited in the arteries forming plaques, which not only reduce tissue oxygenation, but can also rupture. The rupture of plaques is known as a plaque accident and is at the basis of the onset of heart attacks.
For all these situations, we need medical intervention to control, medicate, and perform the appropriate follow-up. Sometimes with medication and sometimes by changing behaviors and habits.
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Preventing heart disease with a change of habits
There’s a point when drugs have little to do with the matter, and the main help is habit change. While pharmacology helps control cardiovascular diseases, the patient also has to engage in a profound change of lifestyle.
Over time, scientific studies have shown that the following measures can significantly reduce cardiovascular risk:
- Quitting smoking: It’s common knowledge that smoking generates cardiovascular and pulmonary mortality.
- Losing weight: Obesity and being overweight are associated with high blood pressure, diabetes and elevated cholesterol.
- Exercising: Exercising in three weekly forty-minute sessions, separated by a day in between, significantly reduces the possibility of heart disease.
- Eating a healthy diet: The so-called Mediterranean diet is a valid option for the control of hypertension, diabetes, and cholesterol.
In conclusion, preventing heart disease involves a change in daily habits. Although it’s true that we can’t modify some factors, such as age and sex, we can modify other factors. Thus, quitting smoking, having a healthy diet and regular exercise are key indications in the prevention of this health issue.