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 have 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.

Thicker Thighs Reduce Risk of Heart Attack

Having skinny legs may increase your risk of heart disease. The results of a new study put a positive spin on having something more substantial than chicken legs. The results, which have been published in the September 4, 2009 edition of the British Medical Journal, state that there is a link between the circumference of a person’s thighs and their risk of heart disease (and dying at a young age).

The study was conducted with 2,800 participants, who were all approximately 50 years of age. The risk of heart attack was double for those participants (male and female) with thighs measuring less than 22 inches (55 cm). People whose thighs measured between 22 and 24 inches (55-60 cm) had a certain level of protection against heart disease. Unfortunately, this protection isn’t present in people with a thigh circumference larger than 24 inches (60 cm).

Belly Fat and Heart Disease Linked

If your body is shaped more like an apple than a pear, you may be at increased risk of developing heart disease. A recent study conducted on children in Australia has revealed that they are more likely to carry body fat in their stomach area than in their limbs.

Researchers examined children using calipers to determine how much body fat was present in the upper arm under the shoulder blade. The results of the study, which was conducted over a 50-year period, indicate that the amount of body fat in children is increasing by almost a full percentage point every decade. This is disturbing news, since people who are obese tend to have more health issues than those who are at a normal weight. Obesity in children sets them up for health problems at a younger age than those who put on weight in adulthood.

Being Overweight Overworks Heart

Being overweight or obese does increase the likelihood that you will be diagnosed with heart disease during your lifetime. The risk does diminish if  you can get to a heart healthy weight, though. Following a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy products and whole grains is a good place to start. There are no “good” or "bad" foods, and you can still have a treat on special occasions, so long as you eat healthy foods most of the time. Try eating well at least 80 percent of the time, and you can enjoy special foods at other times, too.

The Obesity Epidemic and Heart Disease

Levels of obesity in the United States have now reached epidemic proportions. In 2004, none other than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has declared obesity to be the number one health threat facing America.
This condition is responsible for over 400,000 deaths each year, and is reflected in the over $122 billion in costs to the economy.

Obesity affects not only the individual’s body, but also has a psychological effect. People who are obese tend to have lower self-esteem than people who are at or around a normal weight. Their self-esteem plummets as the numbers on the scale go up. They may fall into a depression.

The health consequences to the obese individual’s body should not be discounted, either. Being significantly overweight can lead to a number of health conditions, including high blood pressure, thyroid disease, diabetes, and heart disease. Obesity is not something that affects only adults, though. More than 15 percent of young people under the age of 18 can be classified as obese. This means that children are putting themselves at risk of developing these serious health conditions, and from a young age.

It may be too simple to blame these obesity figures on people simply putting too much food into their mouth. There are people living in developing countries who are clinically obese. You may be surprised to find that this condition also exists in places around the world where a significant portion of the population is malnourished.

An interesting theory contends that children who are born to mothers who are malnourished are predisposed in the womb to being obese. Not having enough to eat before birth may have an adverse effect on the fetus’ metabolism, in which it trains itself to conserve any fuel it ingests as a hedge against future periods of famine.