While we do not know all the factors that lead to Mr. Gandolfini’s death; we do know that his sudden death, reportedly due to a heart attack, has sparked a much needed conversation about heart disease. Heart disease is the nation’s No. 1 killer for both men and women. But what’s most astonishing is that almost 80 percent of heart disease is preventable, and even making very small lifestyle changes could decrease your risk of heart disease.
Heart disease includes a number of conditions affecting the structure or function of the heart. They can include: Coronary Artery Disease (CAD, narrowing of the arteries), Heart Attack (blood clot blocks the flow of blood to the heart), Arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms), Heart Failure (congestive heart failure, heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs), Heart Valve Disease (heart valves do not work the way they should), Congenital Heart Disease (abnormalities in heart structure that occur before birth), Cardiomyopathy (progressive heart disease in which the heart is abnormally enlarged, thickened and or rigid), Pericardial Disease (aka Pericarditis is inflammation of any of the layers of the pericardium, the tissue sac that surrounds the heart), Aorta Disease (an aneurysm is an abnormal bulge in the wall of an artery, aneurysms can form in any blood vessel but are most common in the aorta); and Vascular Disease (includes long list of conditions which affects the circulatory system).
There following are 5 reasonable lifestyle changes you can initiate today, to decrease your risk of heart disease:
- Quit Smoking: Smokers have more than twice the risk for a heart attack as nonsmokers. Today there are numerous smoking cessation campaigns available to help you quit.
- Exercise: Many of us lead sedentary lives, with little to no exercise at all. People who do not exercise have higher death rates and heart disease compared to people who engage in mild to moderate forms of exercise. Start slow by walking 15 minutes a day and if cleared by your physician, gradually increase the time weekly. Also, walk early in the morning or later in the day when it is not as hot.
- Eat right: Eat a heart healthy diet low in cholesterol and fat and increase the amount of antioxidants you consume. Antioxidants are believed to protect cells from molecules thought to damage cells that result in heart disease.
- Control high blood pressure and cholesterol: High blood pressure is the most common heart disease risk factor. One in four adults has high blood pressure, and some do not know they have it. Eating foods low in salt and or eliminating salt from your diet is one way to begin to get your blood pressure under better control. The risk for heart disease increases as the amount of your total cholesterol increases. A diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat will help lower your cholesterol levels.
The most important thing is to know if you are at risk and begin to take the appropriate steps to heal your body, get on track, and prevent heart disease from claiming your life too soon.
By Being Latino Contributor, Maria G. Rodriguez, RN, BSN, CHHC, www.connectmymindbodyandspirit.com