Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 10, 2012
The numbers are staggering. Cardiovascular disease is behind one out of every three deaths in the United States. Heart attack and stroke claim the lives of more than two thousand Americans every day. But, the nation’s number one killer is largely preventable.
“More than 90 percent of deaths from cardiovascular disease can be prevented,” says Dr. JoAnne Foody, a cardiologist and Director of the Cardiovascular Wellness Service at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “And, the steps to reduce the risks are fairly simple.”
Dr. Foody explains that there are seven ideal health metrics to help prevent cardiovascular disease, which were recently published by the American Heart Association:
- No smoking
- Physical activity (walking, biking, swimming, etc.) for 30 minutes most days of the week
- Blood pressure less than 120/80 mm Hg (untreated)
- Normal blood glucose (fasting glucose of less than 100 mg/dL)
- Total cholesterol of less than 200 mg/dL
- BMI of less than 25
- Healthy eating
To help people improve their cardiovascular health, the BWH Cardiovascular Wellness Service created Smart for the Heart. This free, comprehensive online program includes a health risk assessment tool to identify risk factors for cardiovascular disease, exercise plans and demonstrations, a meal planner, recipe analysis, and logs to track weight, nutrition, and exercise.
“You will be most successful if you work these guidelines into your everyday life,” Dr. Foody told me. “For example, being active does not mean that you have to go to a gym. Walking is a great form of exercise, and most people can do it. If you need to lower your BMI, try eating smaller portions. Small changes can make a big difference.”
If you have an identified risk factor, talk with your doctor about ways to lower your risk. If you have numerous risk factors, or a family history of cardiovascular disease, Dr. Foody recommends a consultation with a cardiologist. A family history of cardiovascular disease includes having a father or brother who developed heart disease or stroke before age 55, or a sister or mother who developed heart disease or stroke before age 65.
Need more incentive? Reducing risk factors for cardiovascular disease also has been found to reduce the risk of other major diseases, like cancer. So, living healthy is good any way you look at it.
– Jessica F