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Heart disease doesn’t go on vacation

Dr. Conley

By Dr. Conley​

In 2020, heart disease was the number one cause of death among Americans, accounting for 690,000 deaths—20% of all deaths in the United States. Unfortunately, this isn’t an anomaly as heart disease-related deaths around the world have been increasing significantly for over two decades.
While the statistics may seem grim, heart disease is generally something that can be prevented and even reversed with the proper diet and exercise.

What is heart disease?

Heart disease is a broad term that encompasses multiple different diagnoses including congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, and high blood pressure as well as some rhythm disorders.

What are the warning signs of heart disease?

Heart disease can be symptomatic or asymptomatic. For example, many people with high blood pressure will not experience or display any symptoms. Individuals with coronary artery disease may not know that they have an issue until they start to develop symptoms like shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness, or chest pain.

What activities or behaviors are commonly linked to heart disease?

Tobacco abuse, poor diet, and sedentary lifestyles are strongly linked to heart disease. Additionally, high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure are potentially modifiable risk factors that can put you at risk for heart disease.

Is heart disease reversible?

If caught early, heart disease can be reversed by addressing specific risk factors and making lifestyle choices to prevent worsening the condition. Reducing or eliminating the activities and behaviors listed above can help reverse the effects of heart disease.

Is heart disease hereditary?

In many people, heart disease has a genetic component but can still be modified with the right lifestyle choices.

How can someone reduce their risk of heart disease?

Quitting (or never starting) smoking is one of the best things that someone can do to minimize or reduce the risk of heart disease. Staying physically active and keeping your body at a healthy weight also helps to reduce the risk of disease. If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes you should work closely with your doctor to monitor and manage these issues.
Despite the prevalence of information and resources available, people still don’t realize just how important the role their diet plays in keeping their hearts healthy. By and large, Americans eat diets that are very heavy in carbohydrates and sugar and do not consume enough fruits, vegetables, and protein. Having a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and protein and minimizing processed foods is another thing the individuals have a lot of control over in regards to the prevention of heart disease.
For most people, small changes in their diet and exercise routine can make a big impact on their heart health and overall fitness.