How preventable is heart disease in America?

                             Heart Diseases in the United States

     Heart Disease is the number one cause of death in the United States of America, with Coronary Artery Disease being the most common type. In a 2016 survey, 121.5 million Americans dealt with heart or blood vessel disease. Out of all those individuals only 15.5 million Americans went to visit a physician for heart disease.

      Cardiovascular diseases can be brought on by multiple things like obesity, diabetes, poor diet, smoking, drinking and not exercising. According to the Heart Association annual report, Cardiovascular disease can be prevented by controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol, not smoking and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The report also included new recommendations for adults to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep a night. Exercising 3 to 4 times a week even moderately can reduce your chances of heart disease. Out of those 3 to 4 times, you should at least exercise for 30 to 60 minutes. Choosing certain activities such as swimming, light jogging, biking or even walking are some great ways to get yourself on track towards reducing your chances of heart disease.

        Even though heart disease is the leading cause of death here in the United States it does vary by race, gender, age and ethnicity. 610,000 men and women die every year from heart disease and more than half of the deaths were in men for the 2009 research period. Eighty percent of those deaths were preventable! This should cause us to give pause and reflect on the state of healthcare in this country - when 80% fatal heart attacks that rip loved ones away from family are fully PREVENTABLE, it is a sign that something needs to change.

       Most Americans are dying without warning signs. Though the common signs of a heart attack are chest pain, pain in the arms and lightheadedness/inability to breath, it is the silent symptoms that are taking people’s lives. These symptoms are throat or jaw pain, nausea, stomach pain, and a host of other factors that present themselves in otherwise asymptomatic patients.

Dr. David Zhao, Chief of Cardiology Medicine and Executive Director of the Heart and Vascular Center at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina states “We really have to work harder to reduce ALL the risk factors in order to reduce rates of cardiovascular diseases”.  He also states that the nation has “lots of work be done” in order to prevent fatal heart attacks in millions of Americans.

      Most studies done like the Cardiovascular Health Study, Cardiovascular Epidemiology Training Program and George W. Comstock Center for Public Health Research and Prevention are trying to understand and study heart disease, other diseases and preventions. They have concluded that heart disease along with other diseases aren’t just random, but that they occur due to very specific genetic and environmental factors. These include location, genetics/family history, behaviors, and exposures that explain why people get heart diseases. The studies also gathered that Coronary Artery Disease or CAD is the result of multifactorial influences - some are able to be modified, while others are not. The increase in prevalence, morbidity and mortality can be attributed to the changes in your lifestyle habits as well as habits of smoking and drinking.

Diabetes and hypertension are major disease that can cause CAD. Adequate glycemic and blood pressure control can reduce your risk of CAD. With those diseases there is an increase in oxidative stress which causes DNA damage in atherosclerosis. Which meaning the prevalence, morbidity and mortality of CAD can be diminished radically by extreme change in lifestyle modifications such as increasing your physical activity and avoiding smoking, drinking and your intake of oil.

   To help decrease your chances of heart disease include foods like brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa and sweet potatoes. Adding fiber to your diet helps control blood sugar levels. Avoid sugary foods and stick to skinless poultry. Eating oily fish at least twice per week is another option for meats. Higher intake of natural antioxidants will be a protective factor. Changes like these can help you reduce the risk of getting heart disease by reducing DNA damage and improving DNA repair.

Cardiovascular disease is claiming far too many Americans lives. Though the United States still has a long way to go to bring down numbers for preventable heart disease, we’re slowly getting there by through education and an increasing focus on preventive health.