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Is heart disease preventable?

Written on March 7, 2023 by Sendra Yang, PharmD, MBA. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Table of contents

According to the CDC, tens of millions of Americans suffer from heart disease, a leading cause of death and disability [1]. Heart disease is preventable, but the incidence of heart disease in the adult population is far too common [2]. Heart disease costs the United States about $229 billion each year in healthcare expenditures [1]. The most common heart disease is coronary artery disease, which causes plaque buildup in the heart’s arteries and kills more Americans than any other heart disease [1,3]. The second most common heart disease is heart attack [1]. For a preventable disease, heart disease has a high economic cost for both individuals and the healthcare system as a whole. Heart disease is preventable if you know your risks and make healthy lifestyle changes.

Understanding heart disease risk factors and how to address them

The leading risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, secondhand smoke exposure, obesity, an unhealthy diet, and a sedentary lifestyle [4]. The more of these risk factors you are exposed to, the higher your risk of developing heart disease. Eliminating one or more heart disease risk factors will improve health outcomes and lower risks [5].

High blood pressure

Having consistently high blood pressure can lead to hypertension, cardiomyopathy, coronary heart disease, strokes, and heart failure [6,7]. Unmanaged high blood pressure puts a strain on your heart that could lead to heart failure or other health problems. This is why it’s essential to know if you have high blood pressure and get treatment if you do because high blood pressure can go unnoticed [8]. Dropping your blood pressure to a healthy level and lifestyle changes can make your heart healthier.

High cholesterol levels

It is essential to be aware of your cholesterol levels and ensure they remain healthy to prevent cholesterol-related heart disease [9]. High cholesterol levels can result in the formation of fatty deposits called triglycerides in your blood vessels, which can accumulate over time and obstruct blood flow in your arteries [10]. These fatty deposits can also break suddenly, forming clots leading to heart attacks or strokes. To prevent the development of cholesterol-related heart disease, statin medication therapy and a healthy diet can be beneficial in lowering cholesterol levels [9].

Obesity and heart disease

Obesity leads to a high risk of developing heart disease and other health complications [11]. It can cause an unhealthy cholesterol balance by elevating your cholesterol levels and leading to increased blood pressure, resulting in hypertension and cardiovascular diseases [7,9]. A healthy diet, weight loss through healthy means, and consulting with your healthcare provider to find effective treatment can decrease your risk of developing heart disease [11]. Some obesity-related heart health risk factors can be treated if you take the necessary steps to lose weight.

Unhealthy diets

The food you eat has an impact on your energy levels, health, and risk of heart disease. Poor dietary choices can increase your chances of developing diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol, all risk factors for heart disease [12]. Conversely, a diet that prioritizes whole grains, vegetables, fruits, less red meat, and food and drinks with fewer added sugars can decrease the risk of heart disease [13]. Eliminating foods high in saturated fat, trans-fat, and cholesterol can reduce fatty plaque buildup in your heart [12]. A healthy diet can lower your risk of developing heart disease.

Sedentary lifestyle

Living a busy life without including time for physical activity can result in health issues such as obesity, high blood pressure, and poor dietary choices [9,11]. The harmful effects of a sedentary lifestyle accumulate over time, eventually leading to heart disease development. If you have any risk factors for heart disease, engaging in healthy exercise can enhance your health outcomes. Physical activity helps regulate blood pressure, maintain a healthy body weight, and promote improved dietary choices [11]. To keep your heart healthy, continue to be active.

Have an active role

Playing an active role in your heart health will reduce the risk of developing heart disease later in life. The accumulation of poor health choices over time will put your heart at greater risk. Heart disease is preventable if you know your risk and how to take preventative measures to keep yourself on a healthy path.

Prevention starts with you. Your first step is to know your heart health risks and understand what they mean for you. Through Everlywell, you can access easy heart health testing to check in on cholesterol and HbA1c levels.

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