The number-one killer in America (for both men and women), heart disease is the result of the narrowing of the arteries that supply the heart with blood, oxygen, and nutrients. This process, called coronary artery disease, can generally be traced to a condition called atherosclerosis, the build-up of cholesterol-rich fatty deposits, or plaques, on the inside of arterial walls. As these deposits accumulate over time, the coronary arteries narrow to the point that the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart is impeded. (Arterial spasms triggered by smoking, extreme emotional stress, or exposure to very cold temperatures may also cause coronary arteries to narrow suddenly and dangerously.)
The Risk Factors and How You Can Reduce Yours
Major risk factors for cardiovascular disease include cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and/or triglycerides, diabetes mellitus, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and poor nutrition. Prevention and treatment centers around these risk factors and these approaches will help you lower risk for many other types of illness, as well as helping you feel great and have more energy overall.
1. Don’t smoke.
- Cigarette smoking remains the leading preventable cause of cardiovascular disease in women, with more than 50 percent of heart attacks among middle-aged women attributable to tobacco. Risk of cardiovascular disease begins to decline within months of smoking cessation and reaches the level of persons who have never smoked within 3 to 5 years.
2. Lower your cholesterol.
- High blood cholesterol is a condition that greatly increases your chances of developing coronary heart disease. Extra cholesterol in the blood settles on the inner walls of the arteries, narrowing them and allowing less blood to pass through them to the heart. Aim for total cholesterol below 200 mg/dL; LDL cholesterol below 130 mg/dL and HDL above 35 mg/dL.