Focus On Heart Protection Now

Focus On Heart Protection Now

It’s never too soon to start thinking about taking care of your heart.

“By far, the biggest killer of both men and women in the United States is atherosclerosis, which causes heart attacks, strokes and heart failure,” says Howard Schwartz, MD, an integrative cardiologist in New York.

Atherosclerosis is the build-up of fatty deposits (plaque) in arteries that restricts the flow of blood through arteries and raises blood pressure, causing further damage.

Reduce your risk

The good news is that having a healthy lifestyle can go a long way toward reducing risk of heart disease. In fact, new research suggests that healthy aging of blood vessels may be possible even in people 70 years and older. Unfortunately, that’s uncommon with today’s Western diet and lifestyle.

When scientists followed 3,196 adults from the Framingham Heart Study starting in their 20s, they found that by age 50, only 30 percent of the people had healthy arteries. By age 70, only 1 percent of people had healthy arteries. An unhealthy lifestyle can catch up with you sooner or later. If heart disease runs in your family, you may blame your genes. Although genetics do play a role, research confirms that a healthy lifestyle can go a long way in offsetting this risk.

Recently, researchers looked at medical data and genetic risk of 55,685 adults. They found that people following a healthy lifestyle had nearly a 50 percent lower risk of heart attacks and other heart events compared to people with an unhealthy lifestyle, regardless of their genetic risk. The two biggest lifestyle factors in healthy cardiovascular aging were keeping a healthy body weight and avoiding high blood sugar (type 2 diabetes).

So, don’t wait to protect your heart, regardless of whether or not cardiovascular disease runs in your family.

“If you don’t want to depend on medications and procedures, seek an integrative approach to heart health that not only includes a healthy diet and physical activity, but also stress reduction and the use of specific dietary supplements, as appropriate,” Schwartz says.

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