Despite all the strides we have made in medicine and research, cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States.
The question I must ask is, WHY??
Could it be that we are not paying attention to the lifestyles we live?
Do we not get enough exercise?
Is stress going unmanaged and becoming “too common”?
It possibly is all of the above.
According to the CDC, in the U.S. about one in every six healthcare dollars is spent on cardiovascular disease. In 2016, this equated to $555 billion. It is projected that by 2030, the cost of cardiovascular disease will rise to over $818 billion! When you add in the costs associated to ___ this is over 1 trillion dollars. In 2011, The American Heart Association predicted that 40% of Americans would have cardiovascular disease by 2030. Unfortunately, America reached this mark in 2015...15 years ahead of projections.
According to the American Heart Association, this is the breakdown as of 2015:
High Blood Pressure.............................. 96.1 million
Coronary Heart Disease..........................16.8 million
Stroke .......................................................7.5 million
Congestive Heart Failure ..........................5.8 million
Atrial Fibrillation ......................................5.2 million
When are we going take notice that the #1 killer in our country is primarily due to the lifestyle choices we are making?
Emerging research continues to show how lifestyle can impact not only cardiovascular disease but almost all chronic diseases including Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, hormone imbalances, GI disturbances and autoimmune diseases and other inflammatory conditions. The risk factors for heart disease include inactivity, obesity, smoking, poor dietary and lifestyle habits, genetics, and other health conditions such as diabetes.
The National Cholesterol Education Program states, “Lifestyle changes are the most cost-effective means to reduce the risks of CVD.”
So what exactly do I mean by lifestyle choices? This can include:
Exercise or lack thereof
Stress Levels/ Stress Management
A Mediterranean style food plan may be beneficial to all of these diseases and has a tremendous amount of research showing the benefits in reducing CVD and reducing risk factors. This food plan is based on whole foods.
It eliminates the use of:
artificial and processed foods
Plant and animal based proteins
It also focuses on low-glycemic food choices as well as eating smaller, more frequent meals.
The DASH diet is most commonly used for those with high blood pressure and shares many similarities to the Mediterranean food plan. The DASH diet does bring attention to reducing sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day.
Other diets/food plans may include:
Anti-Inflammatory food plan
Learn More about my top picks for Heart Healthy Foods HERE.
To know what food plan is optimal for you, it is best to work with a nutritionist or health care professional who specializes in dietary plans.
For the best prevention, the CDC reports the following guidelines:
Eat a healthy diet: Such as those mentioned above
Exercise regularly: A minimum of moderate intensity for 30-minutes, 5-7 times per week
Maintain a healthy weight: Monitor your BMI and Body Fat percentage as well as the scale.
Limit or avoid alcohol
In addition to these general guidelines, I also believe a Stress Management protocol should be implemented. More on this topic to come in future posts.
Additional Food for Thought:
You should also be aware of the side effects of any prescription or over-the-counter drugs you are taking. For instance, oral contraceptives may increase your risk for a cardiovascular event due to the depletion of many vitamins and minerals such as B6, B12, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Magnesium and Zinc. (This is another blog topic to come!)
Take care of your heart…It will love you for doing so!