February is Heart Month! We are reminded that we cannot take our health for granted. A heart attack or stroke can happen out of the blue, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation has educated everyone to recognize the signs and symptoms of these cardiovascular diseases.
What are cardiovascular diseases?
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels and they include:
- Coronary heart disease – disease of the blood vessels supplying the heart muscle.
- Cerebrovascular disease – disease of the blood vessels supplying the brain.
- Peripheral arterial disease – disease of blood vessels supplying the arms and legs.
- Deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism – blood clots in the leg veins, which can dislodge and move to the heart and lungs.
- Rheumatic heart disease – damage to the heart muscle and heart valves from rheumatic fever, caused by streptococcal bacteria.
- Congenital heart disease – malformations of heart structure existing at birth.
Notice most of the disorders relate to the blood vessels, and most of these diseases don’t happen overnight. Rather, issues within the blood vessels existed well before an event occurs. So, it would make sense to look at how we can prevent these events from happening.
Did you know that there are over 400 risk factors for CVD? As Dr. Mark Houston says, “The blood vessel has a finite number of responses to an infinite number of insults. but with finite responses. These responses are: Inflammation, oxidation, and vascular autoimmune dysregulation.”
These responses occur within the blood vessels over time. The good news is that many risk factors are modifiable, meaning we can prevent heart diseases to a certain extend.
What are some of the modifiable risk factors? Here is a list of a few:
- High blood pressure
- Insulin resistance/insulin resistance/metabolic syndrome
- Low dietary omega 3 fatty acids
- Low dietary potassium and magnesium with high sodium
- Increased immune dysfunction
- Lack of sleep
- Lack of exercise
- Stress (physical and mental)
- Micronutrient deficiencies (e.g. Vitamin D, vitamin K)
- Chronic infections
- Hormonal imbalance
- Heavy metal toxicity
- Environmental pollutants
Take a close look at this list. Do you have any issues here? Some of them you will have to work closely with your health provider to find the best approach. Others you absolutely have control over.
Insist on getting enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, exercise, and move regularly. Also, manage stress level both physically and mentally. Try to stay socially connected even with physical distancing. These are the foundations of health!
Who can help?
If you are not sure how to make changes or uncertain what you need to address first, a health coach would be a good person to consult with, and put you on the right path. If you are already on medication, make sure you speak with your pharmacist often about what you are doing. When you start making lifestyle changes, your medication dosage may require adjustment very rapidly. Uncertain about the types of food to eat to get the right nutrients and micronutrients? A registered dietician or nutritionist can give you all the information you need.
And don’t take snoring lightly. You may have obstructive sleep apnea. Please work with a sleep specialist to solve this problem! Sleep apnea seems like a benign issue…doesn’t everyone snore once in a while? What you may not know is that sleep apnea drives both inflammation and oxidation in the blood vessels and could worsen blood pressure control.
Start working on prevention now. From my personal experience, I wish I had understood all the risk factors many years ago and taken action much earlier in life. Your body will thank you for this.