My father had a quadruple bypass at age 62. So every ache and pain anywhere near my chest has me double-checking that my will is updated.
I have good reason to be ruffled. Cardiovascular disease — including heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure — is the #1 killer in the United States.
It’s more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. CVD costs this country more than $315 billion each year, including the cost of healthcare services, medications and lost productivity. 1
Are you at risk? Let’s take a look at some of the ways you might be upping your chances for this deadly disease.
You (or your friends) light up
Cigarette smokers are 2-4 times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than nonsmokers. And, for every cigarette you smoke per day, the risk of a nonfatal heart attack rises by almost 6%.
Even exposure to secondhand smoke poses a serious health hazard.
Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke are up to 30% more likely to develop heart disease.
If you smoke, quit now. Within 20 minutes, your blood pressure and pulse will return to normal, and your circulation will improve.
Within 8 hours, your blood-oxygen levels will start to increase, and your chance of a heart attack will start to fall.
And within 5 years, your risk of a heart attack will fall to about half that of a pack-a-day smoker.
And remember, you’re never too old to quit. Among smokers who quit at age 66, men gained up to 2 years of life, while women gained up to almost 4 years.
You toss and turn
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that those who sleep fewer than 6 hours (or more than 10) reported a higher prevalence of coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes.2
To get the right amount of your requisite zzzs:
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
- Use your bed only for sleeping or sex.
- Don’t toss and turn in bed. If you can’t fall asleep, move to another room.
- Lay off the alcohol and caffeine.
- Get some exercise, but not too close to bedtime.
You brush off your family history
Although 96% of people believe that family history is important for their own health, less than 30% have collected health information from their relatives to develop a family health history.
If your dad had a heart attack before the age of 50, your risk is double that of the average person. If your mom had an attack under age 60, it raises your risk by 70%.
So collect your family history and go over it with your doctor.
You fear fish
Fish, especially fatty fish, contains omega-3 fatty acids, a type of unsaturated fat that helps promote a healthy inflammatory response that can protect blood vessels and support your heart health.
Fish high in omega-3s include salmon, anchovies, bluefish, sardines and tuna. If you don’t like fish, or if you’re afraid of the mercury in fish, you can also get some omega-3s in DHA-enriched eggs, walnuts and ground flaxseed.
Or try RealDose Super Critical Omega-3 TG. It provides you with a concentrated 2.4 grams of omega-3s per day in the superior triglyceride (TG) form.
You skip flossing
Several studies have found that people with gum disease are up to twice as likely to have heart disease. Researchers theorize that inflammation in the gums creates an easy path for bacteria to enter the bloodstream and create havoc on the heart.
Protecting your heart is one more good reason to heed your dentist’s wise advice: Brush and floss daily, and schedule a checkup at least twice a year.
How about you? Are you concerned that you’ll succumb to heart disease? Do you have any of the risk factors I talked about? Are you doing anything about it? I’d love to hear.
Steven Sisskind, M.D.
1. Go AS, Mozaffarian D, Roger VL, et al.; American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2014 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2014;129(3):e28-e292. Epub 2013 Dec 18. PMID: 24352519.
2. Liu Y, Wheaton AG, Chapman DP, Croft JB. Sleep duration and chronic diseases among U.S. adults age 45 years and older: evidence from the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Sleep. 2013;36(10):1421-7. PMID: 24082301.
3. Persson GR, Persson RE. Cardiovascular disease and periodontitis: an update on the associations and risk. J Clin Periodontol. 2008;35(8 Suppl):362-79. PMID: 18724863.