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.

Second Hand Smoke Causes Heart Attacks

The U.S. Surgeon General has announced that exposure to second-hand smoke not only causes lung cancer and heart disease: it can also trigger a heart attack in non-smokers. A new report published by the Institute of Medicine claims that even brief exposure is enough to bring serious health consequences to others.

The report will only serve to underline the need for a ban on smoking in the workplace, as well as restaurants and other places where members of the public gather. Nearly 50,000 people in the United States die due to exposure to second-hand smoke every year. If, as the report implies, there is no “safe” level of exposure to cigarette smoke, businesses of all kinds should be taking steps to ensure the safety of all of their customers by declaring them a smoke-free zone.

Why Smoking Increases Heart Disease Risk

You have probably heard that lighting up a cigarette increases your risk of cancer, but do you know why smoking and heart disease are related?

Researchers at Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles and Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona may have found the answer to that question. The results of a recent study have shown that the nicotine in cigarettes leads to insulin resistance, a pre-diabetic condition that increases blood sugar levels to a higher-than-normal level.

Diabetes is one of the known risk factors for heart disease, and smokers are more likely to have this chronic condition. The researchers found that the mice involved in the study who had pre-diabetes were more likely to have high levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that increases blood pressure and blood sugar. High blood pressure also puts you at risk for heart problems.

Non-Smoking Bylaws Lead to Fewer Heart Attacks

More municipalities banning smoking in public places has been directly linked to lower heart attack rates. The results of a study published in the Morbidity and Mortality Week Report published by the Centers for Disease Control on January 2, 2009 confirmed this fact.

The goal of passing non-smoking legislation is to protect non-smokers from the negative health effects associated with second-hand smoke. Even inhaling a small amount puts the non-smoker at an increased risk of developing heart disease. Perhaps not being able to smoke in public places will encourage more smokers to give up the habit.

Why Smoking Contributes to Heart Disease

Smoking, or being exposed to second-hand smoke, contributes to heart disease by making the heart work harder. It constricts blood vessels and contributes to a buildup of harmful plaque inside of them. When you smoke, you force your heart to pump harder to distribute blood throughout the body. Every drag from a cigarette introduces carbon monoxide and other harmful chemicals into your body. Carbon monoxide replaces the oxygen you should be breathing in, making it more difficult for your body’s cells to the oxygen they need.

The good news is that if you are able to quit smoking for 12 months, your risk of developing heart disease drops by one-half. Within five years of quitting, you will have the same level of risk as someone who has never smoked.