According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. About 630,000 Americans die from heart disease each year – that’s 1 in every 4 deaths; that’s a heart attack every 40 seconds.
Whether or not you have a family history for heart disease, the last thing you want to do is ignore your risk – and even worse not take any action to prevent it.
I still remember my days working in the heart hospital as a clinical dietitian. I’ve rarely had such an attentive client as a heart patient who has just suffered a stroke or heart attack. When tragedy strikes, the need for change usually comes wailing through like a freight train. Well, let’s stop waiting for your freight train to arrive, and let’s start taking positive action. It’s easier than you think.
There are two vital things you need to understand to boost your heart health and prevent heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, 80 percent of heart disease is preventable ... 80 percent, isn’t that exciting!?
First, understand your risk based on your family history (a.k.a. the genes given to you by your mother and father).
If you are at risk because it ‘runs in your family,’ this does not mean you have a straight shot to the disease. There’s still hope. Thanks to epigenetics research, we now know that if you carry the gene for a disease, it takes the gene and your lifestyle (or environment) to activate and turn the gene on.
I recently had a client who came to me at the age of 71 and said, “Okay, I’m ready to eat healthier. I was supposed to die from a heart attack at 65 as my father and great-grandfather did, yet I’m still here, so let’s get to work.”
Second, understand your blood chemistry and how your nutrition can help.
If you see your doctor each year, a set of blood chemistry labs are taken at your annual visit. These labs include things like blood cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and hemoglobin A1C. Your doc can help you understand these labs and your risk level.
You then can take it one step further by meeting with a registered dietitian to get your specific nutrition action steps based on your lab results. The food you eat is a strong part of your health journey.
If you smoke, have high blood pressure, have unmanaged pre-diabetes or diabetes, are sedentary, are overweight or obese, or eat a diet consisting of highly processed foods, it’s only a matter of time before your body can no longer maintain a healthy balance.
With all our medical advances and technology, you could live another day after a heart attack or stroke, but at what expense to your quality of life ... that’s what nobody can tell you. Luckily, it’s almost never too late to start using nutrition to reduce your risk; and the earlier you start, the better your quality of life can be.
Stop being paralyzed with fear and start taking action!
Fran Sutherlin is a local registered dietitian, health coach, speaker and owner of Sustainable Nutrition in Bayfield. She can be reached at 444-2122 or firstname.lastname@example.org.