A few weeks ago, my best friend’s mother died suddenly at the age of 83. She got up in the middle of the night, seemingly to use the washroom, and her heart just stopped beating. There were no warnings, no obvious signs and no history of heart disease – and luckily, no pain. After the initial shock of her mother’s death wore off, my friend suddenly realized that perhaps she too was at risk of developing heart disease.
Based on current statistics, she has a reason to be concerned. Nearly 2400 Americans die of cardiovascular disease (CVD) each day-an average of 1 death every 37 seconds.
There are various risk factors for developing heart disease. These include hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, cigarette smoking and inactivity. In 2003, approximately 37 percent of adults reported having two or more of the six risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
Here’s what you need to know about heart disease:
Bad News Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States with 651,696 deaths in 2005. Coronary heart disease (CHD) caused about 1 of every 5 deaths in the United States in 2005. 1 in 8 deaths was from heart failure.
Age-adjusted death rates from Heart Disease have declined 38 percent from 1990 to 2006.
High blood pressure (hypertension) is a common killer to heart attack or stroke. The prevalence of hypertension increases with age. Based on statistics from 2003-06, only 36 percent of men and women between the ages of 45-54 had hypertension. But those numbers jump dramatically with age: after the age of 75, 65 percent of men and 80 percent of women.
High Blood Pressure can be lowered by reducing sodium intake and avoiding processed and packaged foods. Did you know 77 percent of the sodium in our diet comes from processed and restaurant foods? At McDonald’s, a Big Mac™, large fries and large Coke™ contains 1,460 mg of sodium. Cooking at home can often lower the risk of high sodium intake. The average adult should consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day and no more than 1,500 mg if they already have high blood pressure. A study published in The Journal of the American College of Nutrition states that avoiding hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats and limiting sugar intake also help lower the chance of heart disease.
Based on a US Department of Agriculture study, 93 percent of Americans failed to meet the recommended daily consumption of 3 ounces of whole grains per day (based on a 2000 – calorie diet) . The average consumption of whole grains by Caucasian and African American men and women was between 0.5 and 0.7 servings per day, with only 3 to 5 percent of Caucasian and African American adults consuming more than 3 servings per day.
The same study indicates there is growing evidence that people who do consume enough whole grains may reduce their risk of developing Heart Disease along with decreasing their risk of becoming overweight.
The major risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, tobacco use, diabetes, physical inactivity, and poor nutrition.
The average fruit consumption among adults ranges from 1.1 to 1.8 servings per day; the average vegetable consumption ranges from 1.2 to 2.1 servings per day.
The risk of heart disease can drop dramatically when people stop smoking or never start, exercise regularly and eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, raw nuts and seeds and whole grains.
Heart disease is largely preventable. Unfortunately, the United States has, for the most part, become a country of consumers of fast food, junk food and processed food where people have lost touch with where food comes from. It’s time to get back to eating food the way nature intended it. If everyone increased their daily consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables to recommended amounts, introduced whole grains such as barley, millet and quinoa to their diet and added 20-30 minutes of exercise to their daily regime, within a matter of a few years we would see heart disease rates decline rapidly.
Decrease your risk for heart disease by following some of these helpful tips:
How to get moving
How to cook whole grains
How to read food labels
How to get your daily dose of fruits and veggies
To learn more about heart disease, Click Here.