Preventing Heart Disease

Heart health is an important topic for people to understand. Unfortunately , many people don’t have a clear understanding of the most important things they need to know to keep themselves safe. Three fourths of people underestimate their risk of dying from the most common killer of both men and women in the United States. Worse, many people hold erroneous beliefs about so-called preventative measures that actually have no effect.

For example, fish oil is often touted as preventing heart disease, even though that is not one of the meany health benefits. Many people also have an oversimplified impression of the role family history holds in heat disease risk, believing there is a simple genetic disposition when the reality is far more complex.

Despite these misunderstandings, heart disease, while still the number one killer, has been declining over the last half century in the developed world, while on the rise in poorer countries over the same time period. In part, this increase is a result of the success that has been had in lowering infant mortality and fatal childhood diseases in those countries; as more people are living to adulthood, more people are living long enough to get heart disease, which is far more common in people over 60. However, the lifestyle factors that lead to heart disease start in childhood, and people everywhere could benefit from better education in avoiding it.

Avoiding heart disease often means lifestyle changes, but nothing that is onerous for most people. Quitting smoking is one of the healthiest things a person can do, and an ex-smoker’s risk of heart disease returns to normal in less than a year. Women on hormonal birth control need to be particularly wary of smoking. Getting regular exercise—half an hour, or even ten minutes, four or five days a week can provide enormous benefits. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and avoiding red meat and other sources of saturated fat, is another change that will improve heart health.

It is especially important for people with known risk factors for heart disease, such as being over age 60, a family history of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stress, or high blood pressure.

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