Heart Disease: How to Combat this Insidious Killer
BY ALAN FIJALKOWSKI
Our greatest challenge is the fight against heart disease.
One of the most critical aspects of human longevity is the ability to manage our own health.
Heart disease is a blanket term for multiple conditions that affect the cardiovascular system, either by acute means or long-term effects. Conditions include coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, arrhythmia, and peripheral artery disease, to name a few.
The American Heart Association identifies seven risk factors as the primary contributors to heart disease. Being knowledgeable and self-aware of your own health is the first step in prevention. The AHA uses these seven (called “Life’s Simple 7”) as a simple and easy-to-use guide to maintaining wellness. The factors, (known as “metrics”), can be used not only individually, but in the workplace environment as well. Representing seven of the top ten most costly risk factors for employers, the AHA cites a little over $2,000 is saved annually on employees who have completed at least six out of the seven risk metrics, making this a natural benefit to any workplace wellness program established by an employer.
The metrics are straightforward yet vital for healthy living and longevity. Smoking habits, body weight, physical activity, dietary habits, blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol levels make up these metrics for risk analysis. For an individual, setting a goal for completing all seven metrics is the best way to reduce the risk of heart disease. For adults, having at least five of the seven metrics complete reduces the average risk of heart disease by 78%.
Take a look at the below table of metric levels recommended by the AHA. Some of these you may already have in the ideal category, and many of these will compound and affect each other automatically. For example, changing eating habits can also reduce your fasting blood glucose and/or cholesterol, and increased physical activity may help reduce these as well as resting blood pressure. Simple changes are the first step and may be the only step needed for many.
If you’re ready to begin, the best place to start is by talking to your physician.
Getting regularly scheduled annual physicals will help you and your physician monitor your progress. Discuss your concerns and set goals together, as your individual needs may vary from the recommended goals established by the American Heart Association. Check with your employer to see what wellness programs are available, as many offer rebates or incentives such as gym memberships and reduced cost sharing on other applications. You can also check your own HeartHealth score on the American Heart Association website, by visiting https://mlc.heart.org/.
Additional information about these metrics, as well as methods and tips to help obtain your goals are available at https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/my-life-check–lifes-simple-7.
Alan is a veteran of the US Marine Corps, serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and is now a full-time firefighter/paramedic. Alan holds a BS in Public Health with his MPH in progress and is a member of both the American Public Health Association and the Colorado Public Health Association. If you have comments or suggestions on content, email him at Alan.RoxLifeMagazine@gmail.com.
(1) This is not a complete list of cardiovascular conditions that contribute to overall heart disease.
(2) Numbers reflected represent the US population, not global. Data obtained from the Center for Disease Control (Last updated 11/2017)
(3) Risk factors listed are for non-genetic based and preventative instances, please consult your doctor if you have or believe you have a genetic condition that may put you at risk.