Is Heart Disease Preventable?

Heart disease is currently the nations #1 killer of men and women, while cancer is climbing and may surpass these statistics in the near future. In most cases, heart disease is preventable but there are genetic factors to be considered. Other diseases such as Diabetes, predisposes a person to the devastating effects of heart disease.

I have been a registered nurse for 30 years and worked in the areas of cardiac care and intensive care most of my career. As such, I have cared for those experiencing the sometimes fatal effects of heart disease; heart attacks. A heart attack occurs when a portion of the heart muscle dies. When a part of the heart dies, it can never be recovered since the damage has been done. Prevention is the key, and is the bases of this article. Some heart attacks are worse than others. I will be discussing this topic in future articles.

The best way to prevent heart disease from happening in the first place involves several life style changes. Smoking, obesity, and high cholesterol, are just a few factors that can be changed. Other predisposing factors include Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, and Kidney Disease may be genetic and more difficult to cure but they can be controlled. Annual check-ups with your physician is the first step in the prevention of the disease. Healthy daily exercise and dietary changes will greatly reduce the changes of developing heart disease.

What Is Heart Disease?

Heart disease occurs when the arteries surrounding the heart develop plaque. This plaque hardens and narrows the passage of proper blood flow to the heart. When blood flow is significantly reduced or stops completely, a portion of the heart muscle dies. Nothing can rejuvenate this dead tissue since the damage has already been done.

Dietary Changes

When you think of dieting, most people do this on a temporary basis. However, with heart disease, it is a life long change. Always consult your physician before making any drastic dietary changes. A diet consisting of low sodium, low fat, low cholesterol is preferred. Be sure to check labels at the grocery store. Stay away from processed and canned foods because they tend to be very high in sodium. Do not add extra salt to your meals. Remember, where salt goes, so does water. Eating foods high in sodium will cause water retention, swelling in your ankles, shortness of breath, high blood pressure, and make the heart work harder than normal.

Lab Work

Your physician will order some necessary lab work for early detection of heart disease. These tests will include Cholesterol, HDL, LDL, Lipids and Triglyceride levels. HDL is the good cholesterol and the LDL is the bad cholesterol. The High Density Lipoproteins or HDL is considered good because it moves along more readily within the arterial walls, whereas, Low Density Lipoproteins or LDL is bad because it tends to hang around and adhere to the arterial walls causing plaque build up. These lab tests will require that you fast for a minimum of 12-15 hours. Do not eat high cholesterol meals before your testing because this will alter the results and may cause some false positives. If your Cholesterol is normal and your Triglycerides are high, this usually means that it is hereditary. Triglycerides are your sweet tooth, so refrain from eating those pies, cakes, and pastries. Cholesterol is your fatty meats and eggs. Try to keep your egg consumption down to no more than 3 per week. Egg beaters are a good substitute and contain no cholesterol.

The prevention of heart disease is critical in maintaining a healthy heart. Small changes can go a long way in reducing the risk of a heart attack. It is important to also remember that once damage to the heart has been done, nothing will correct this. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.