Cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke are among the top 5 causes of death in the US and even globally.

Fortunately, there has been significant improvement in the cardiovascular health of the population in the last few decades, due to increased understanding of risk factors, like style changes, early screening, and treatment.

However, a sudden increase in obesity, atherosclerosis, and hypertension in the last few years threatens to reverse this trend. This signifies that lifestyle interventions and early screening for the conditions remain essential.


Understanding Cardiovascular Risk Factors

Cardiovascular diseases can be prevented to a degree. However, obesity, hypertension, increasing diabetes, and high cholesterol are significant risk factors.

Obesity is a risk factor for many conditions like hypertension and high cholesterol. It results from excessive calorie intake combined with a sedentary lifestyle in most cases. Obesity also contributes to the increase in diabetes. More than one-third of US adults are obese.

Diabetes affects more than 10% of the US population and has become a significant health threat. Diabetes primarily causes vascular diseases. High blood glucose levels are highly damaging to the arteries. Thus, diabetes is a significant cause of heart attack and stroke. It is also the leading cause of chronic kidney disease.

Increasing obesity and diabetes means stiffening the arteries, leading to high blood pressure. This only makes things worse for those living with other metabolic disorders. Apart from high-calorie intake, high salt intake also contributes to the greater prevalence of hypertension.

All of the above conditions also cause changes in lipid profile. Consistently high cholesterol levels are leading to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a formation of mostly cholesterol plaques within the arteries.

Thus, for example, atherosclerosis often leads to the formation of carotid artery plaques. These plaques may remain unnoticed as they might not cause many symptoms, as the carotid arteries are pretty broad. However, dislodging of these plaques is one of the leading causes of stroke and death.

Similarly, high blood pressure and other adverse metabolic changes in the body might cause the weakening of large arteries, causing an aneurysm. An aneurysm occurs when an artery becomes enlarged as its walls become too weak- an artery may bulge under the blood pressure. Again, it may not cause many symptoms, but there is always of risk that the weakened part of the artery may burst, causing severe complications and even death.

Another common problem caused by increased stress on the heart due to metabolic disturbances and hypertension is atrial fibrillation. It is a condition when the heart does not beat as intended. It may not kill immediately, but it considerably increases the risk of clot formation, and thus stroke.

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 Cardiovascular Disease Prevention

Cardiovascular risk factors are highly preventable and even partially reversible without medications.

The most critical way to counter cardiovascular diseases is by reducing body weight. There are two effective ways to reduce body weight: dietary measures and exercise.

Most grossly overweight people think that reducing body weight is challenging, though that is far from true. Studies show that even a slight reduction in body weight can have considerable health benefits. Thus, one may only aim for 5-7% of bodyweight reduction, achieved in a few months.

Studies show that even such a slight bodyweight reduction may significantly reduce the risk of diabetes, improve lipid profile and boost heart health.

Generally, calorie restriction is the single most effective way of weight loss. Although it may be more effective when combined with exercise. Additionally, it is worth understanding that benefits would be even more significant with more extensive weight loss.

It should not be viewed solely for weight loss when it comes to regular exercise. Regular exercise has innumerable health benefits. It is excellent for cardio, respiratory, metabolic, and musculoskeletal health.

American Heart Association recommends
 at least 150 minutes of exercise a week. Thus, 30 minutes of exercise five days a week is essential for everyone. However, AHA says that one should aim for 300 minutes of exercise a month for optimal health.

The above two measures alone can-do wonders for most people. However, calorie restrictions and more significant stress on increased intake of certain nutrients may benefit heart health.

Thus, for example, reduced intake of trans fats and saturated fats are essential. At the same time, a moderate intake of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats is good for vascular health. In addition, consuming more omega-3 fatty acids can benefit cardiovascular health.

Thus, consuming more nuts, seeds, fatty fish, and olive oil in the regular diet may help. In addition, adding omega-3 supplements to the daily regime may help.

Additionally, pay particular focus to a higher intake of dietary fiber. Thus, avoid processed foods and instead choose whole fruits, grains, and other sources of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber is good for weight loss, boosting metabolism, lowering blood sugar, and cardiovascular health.

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Early Screening And Management

Sometimes diseases are not preventable. Thus, early diagnosis is the key to effective treatment. In addition, many conditions can be reversed with medical treatment.

Generally, people above the age of 40 should make a habit of getting screened for various cardiovascular risk factors. It may be both cost-saving and lifesaving.

Considering the increasing prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors, most people should consider screening for carotid artery disease even if there are no symptoms. Peripheral arterial disease screening if there are symptoms like weakness, swelling, or tingling sensation in the legs – these scans may be needed annually in high-risk individuals.

It is also good to scan for an abdominal aortic aneurysm – it can be done even once every five years.

Additionally, most obese individuals living with hypertension and high cholesterol should have an annual heart check-up with the help of an EKG to exclude atrial fibrillation and some other similar conditions.

Additionally, for males above the age of 60 or post-menopausal women, risk assessment for osteoporosis may also help prevent certain debilitating conditions. For more click here


Life Line Screening