Happy Valentine’s Day! You’re probably going to die from heart disease.
WOW, that’s harsh. Kind of, but it’s also true.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there are about 2.5 million deaths each year in the US. About 600,000 (24%) will die from Heart Disease this year (Cancer is a close second at 575,000 or 23%).
I had a few minutes to chat with my favorite family doctor, Dr. Guy Culpepper, who helped put it all into perspective, “We get so worried about murder, but only about 16,000 people die of homicide each year (less than 1%) – and only 10% of those are by strangers. You’re far more likely to die from a heart attack in a dark alley than from a mugging.”
The bummer is that heredity drives much of your likelihood to get heart disease. The more “black marks” you have in your family history, the more aggressive you need to work against them.
Dr. Culpepper shared a few tips to help with those black marks. “We can’t do anything about that crazy uncle who died at 45 of a heart attack – we can’t exercise our way out of it. But, there are a handful of things we CAN all do to reduce our risk of heart disease.”
1) Control blood pressure
90% of blood pressure issues are idiopathic. In other words, no one knows why it happens. In most cases, blood pressure responds well to a healthy change in diet and exercise. If you have blood pressure issues, consult your physician on the best way to get it under control.
2) Control cholesterol
On the other hand, 80% of cholesterol issues are genetic and diet doesn’t always help to control it – in many cases, pharmaceuticals are needed. Some cholesterol drugs bring your likelihood of getting heart disease down by 20-40%, but there’s still a 60-80% chance you’ll get it. If you have cholesterol issues, consult your physician on the best way to get it under control.
On what I count as a much happier note, Dr. Culpepper points out, “You don’t have to bust your butt to get the benefits of exercise. The people who exercise a little bit - just 15-20 minutes a few times a week - may statistically be almost as good someone who exercises an hour or more a day.”
As confirmation that a little goes a long way, I recently wrote an article based on a TED Talk called “Why Dieting Doesn’t Usually Work.” A recent study looked at the risk of death over a 14-year period based on 3 types of people (normal weight, overweight and obese) and 4 healthy habits (eating enough fruits and veggies, exercising 3X per week, not smoking, drinking in moderation). Overweight people who did none of the above were twice as likely to die. BUT, if they added just ONE healthy habit, their risk level came into normal levels.
4) Do it now!
The earlier the better when it comes to prevention. Dr. Culpepper warns, “If the women in your family lose their waists once they hit 40 years old, don’t wait until it happens to deal with it. It’s a lot harder to lose it than it is to prevent gaining it.” The important thing is to make life-long habits – not short-term changes.
Here’s a final deep thought from Dr. Culpepper, “Doing all this won’t just help extend your lifespan (hopefully). It will also help you to live a better, fuller, healthier life while you’re doing it!”
Now, it’s your turn! What steps do you take to reduce your chances of dying from America’s #1 killer?