Heart Disease is a Leading Cause of Death

If you think that cancer is the number one killer, you would be right. Certainly, there is a lot of information in the media about this devastating disease. You may be surprised to learn, though, that cancer has only recently made it to the top of the list of causes of death. Heart disease was the reigning number one killer for a many years, and is still a very serious health concern.

What is Heart Disease?

Heart disease is not a single medical condition, but rather a term that describes several conditions that have a negative effect on the heart muscle and how it functions. The HeartMart website describes most of the common conditions – take a visit! What you learn might help save your life or the life of a loved one.

Factors that Contribute to Heart Disease

A number of factors have a hand in your likelihood of developing heart disease.

  1. Genetics

You have absolutely no control over your family history, but it is a major heart disease risk factor. If a close relative has had heart disease, you haveĀ a greater chance of developing this condition yourself. That doesn’t mean you should throw up your hands and conclude that there is nothing you can do. An increased risk is not a sure thing and if you focus on the things you can control (level of physical activity, diet and being a non-smoker), you may go through life without developing heart disease at all.

  1. Smoking

Cigarette smoking is an extremely hard habit to break. The nicotine contained in cigarettes is a highly-addictive substance. When a smoker takes a drag off a cigarette, they experience a rush from the nicotine within a few seconds, and this is what the nicotine addict craves.

  1. Obesity

Obesity is another condition that increases a person’s risk of developing heart disease, and unfortunately, it is on the rise in the United States.


Obesity is defined as weighing 30 percent or more above the recommended weight standards for an individual’s height.

In your quest to lessen your risk of developing heart disease, it’s important to keep your cholesterol levels down to the recommended range. If you have been told by your doctor that you have high cholesterol, you can try to control your condition by making changes to your diet. Medications may be prescribed to regulate your cholesterol levels as well.

The best things you can do for yourself when trying to prevent heart disease is to eat well and be physically active. A balanced diet that includes a variety of foods will help you look and feel better. You do need some fat in your diet, so don’t think that by eliminating all fats that you are going to lessen your risk of developing heart disease. Regular exercise helps to strengthen the heart muscle and burns fat, too.

Keep an eye on the HeartMart blog and plan on visiting regularly. We will be posting healthy diet plans for you to follow, along with suggestions for exercise routines you may want to try. Other posts will deal with how to determine whether you are at risk for developing heart disease.

Blame Your Genes for Stroke Risk

Your risk of having a stroke or developing early onset coronary artery disease may be genetic. Scientists at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston have discovered a single gene defect that causes these two health issues, as well as thoracic aortic aneurysms, ischemic stroke, and Moyamoya disease (a rare disorder affecting the cartoid arteries in the brain).

If someone has the mutated ACTA2 gene, then vascular screening tests can be ordered. Early diagnosis means that appropriate treatment can be started to lower the risk of disability or death. Family history is only one of the risk factors for coronary disease, and your lifestyle choices can help to reduce it.

Here are the basics you need to remember:

  • Don’t smoke.
  • Eat a balanced diet that is low in saturated fat.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Find a way to fight stress.
  • Have your blood pressure checked regularly.

Genetics and Heart Disease

Scientists have known for some time that the risk of developing early onset heart disease (under the age of 40) had a hereditary link, but did not which genetic marker was responsible for it. New research into the gene believed responsible for heart disease has now revealed that a variation of the protein neuropeptide Y (NPY) is the likely culprit. It’s probably no coincidence that this protein has been linked to the ability to control appetite.

When researchers conducted a study involving 1,000 families, they found that a link exists between people who carry this variation of the gene and people who have heart disease or a family history of the disorder.