By Mandy Froelich / Life in Bloom Nutrition
The concept of suffering a heart attack, or knowing someone who is at risk, is frightening. The feeling happened to me the other day when I heard someone in my family was having chest pains. As a health professional, my first question was to ask what other symptoms they were experiencing. Had it been numbness and tingling in nearby extremities, lightheadedness, or feelings of tightness, I would have insisted they travel to the emergency room (ER).
However, they insisted they were fine and so far, seem to be. Of course, this reminded me of how common heart attacks are, and how they are largely preventable. According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. In fact, in the US, one person dies of heart disease (typically in the form of a heart attack) every 36 seconds. Every year, that’s a toll of 655,000 Americans — or 1 in every 4 deaths.
Personally, I find this to be astonishing. We now know that heart disease can be largely prevented through a healthy diet, lifestyle, getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, and maintaining low-moderate stress levels. However, it is still the leading cause of death. Why? Because our populace, for the most part, is hooked on high-fat, low-quality, high-sugar foods which are quick to grab, manufactured to be “yummy,” and ultimately are bad for the body. Many are also addicted to smoking, inactivity, and negative thought patterns.
This doesn’t have to be the way. This firm belief is one of the reasons I became a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) and chef. I have seen first-hand hundreds of people reverse their health conditions by simply adopting healthier diet and lifestyle habits. I know, it’s not always easy at first. But over time, anyone can develop healthier habits and live longer, healthier lives as a result.
That established, there have also been numerous studies devoted to establishing effective means of reducing one’s risk of developing heart disease. One intriguing finding, highlighted by Nancy K. Sweitzer, MD, PhD, deduced that there are simple changes men and women can make to reduce their risk of developing heart disease by a whopping 80 percent.
The study, conducted by Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, observed 20,721 healthy Swedish men, ages 45 to 79, for 11 years. The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and noted that five lifestyle choices are key for men and women to reduce their risk of heart disease.
Here’s how these changes stack up:
- 36 percent risk reduction attributed to not smoking.
- 18 percent reduction for eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, reduced-fat dairy products, whole grains, and fish.
- 12 percent reduction for maintaining a waistline of 37 inches or less (for men). (For women, this waistline circumference would be about 35 inches or less, said Dr. Sweitzer.)
- 11 percent reduction for drinking fewer than two alcoholic drinks per day. (Probably one drink per day for women.)
- 3 percent reduction for moderate daily and weekly exercise routines.
- 1 percent – the percentage of study participants who exhibited all five of the healthy habits.
Why don’t more people follow all five of these lifestyle choices? “It can be overwhelming if people feel they need to make all of these changes at once,” said Dr. Sweitzer. “Everyone could look at where they can make the biggest impact on their risk reduction and start with one small change.” The biggest potential impact, if you smoke, stop!
What could we save if more of us make these lifestyle choices?
- 600,000 – The number of Americans who died from heart disease during 2013. That’s 1 in every 4 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women.
- 380,000 – the number of people who die from coronary heart disease, the most common type of heart disease; it is caused by a blockage in the coronary artery.
- 720,000 – the number of heart attacks each year in America.
- $108.9 billion – the costs of coronary artery disease alone, including health care services, medications and lost productivity.
I don’t know about you, but I am not ready to lose people I love simply because they don’t eat healthy foods, exercise enough, or are hooked on cigarettes. There are effective ways to change your mindset, learn how to eat healthy (+ save money and even fall in love with nourishing food), and adopt habits that will support vibrant health into your later years. Start by sorting through the articles and recipes on Life in Bloom Nutrition! Health is truly our wealth, and without it, we have nothing.