Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack. This results in about 805,000 people suffering from heart attacks every year.
This alarming statistic may make you wonder about your own risk for heart attack. While the use of heart disease drugs have skyrocketed in the past two decades, heart disease is still on the rise. However, there is a natural approach that can improve heart health risks better than statins and lead to a more vibrant and energetic life.
This article will cover heart disease risk factors, how to prevent heart disease in the first place, and live a healthy life for years to come!
What is the best indicator of an increased risk of heart disease?
While many people (and even conventional doctors) believe cholesterol is the best indicator of an increased risk of heart disease, that is simply not true. Studies show that even if you take a drug, like a statin, it could lower your cholesterol, but your risk for heart disease still remains because you aren’t addressing the root cause.
To understand your heart health risk to fix it, you must dig deeper to understand why your cholesterol numbers are elevated in the first place.
But as mentioned above, cholesterol isn’t the best indicator of an increased risk of heart disease. You could have normal, “healthy” cholesterol and still be at risk for heart disease.
So what is the best indicator of an increased risk of heart disease?
We can assess your risk for heart disease/ heart health problems by looking at a few factors, including inflammation, gut health, and metabolic health as well as your cholesterol levels.
Things that can influence these indicators are diet and lifestyle factors…which means that you have control over your heart health and your cardiovascular risk.
Heart disease risk factors
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Poor diet
- Being overweight/obese
- Elevated-stress levels
- Chronic exposure to environmental toxins, especially heavy metals
Know your heart health numbers
It’s vital to know your heart health numbers. In fact, knowing your numbers can help you feel empowered and motivated to make diet and lifestyle changes. With the right medical plan, you will see the physical results in your lab tests and have better insights into your heart health.
So, what are the important numbers to know?
Heart Health Indicators to Assess
- Lipoprotein Particle
- Numbers (LDL-P and HDL-P)
- LDL, HDL, total cholesterol
- Apolipoprotein A-1
- Apolipoprotein B
- Lipoprotein (a)
- Blood pressure
- Carotid Intima-Media Thickness (CIMT)
- TMAO and MPO
- Coronary Artery
- Calcium Score
- Indicators of ‘Leaky Gut’
Heart disease prevention
You may wonder, “What can I do to reduce my risk of heart disease and stroke?” And the good news is there is a lot! You can implement simple action steps today to improve your heart health and reduce your risk of heart disease in the future.
The key is to prevent damage to your blood vessels in the first place or slow or reverse the damage that has already been done. Here’s how to do that…
Tips for Heart Disease Prevention
Exercise regularly (30 min/day). Think of exercise as the most important activity you do all day and center the rest of your day around it. Choose activities that bring you joy so you are more motivated to keep with it!
Keep Your Waistline Slim – Whether you refer to it as a muffin top or a beer gut, extra fat around your belly, referred to as ‘central adiposity’ poses a bigger risk for heart attack than the already high risk of being overweight. This is due to stimulation of inflammation, a key risk factor for heart disease. Regular exercise is an essential component in minimizing central adiposity.
Get 7-8 hours of quality sleep. Sleep trackers/monitors can help track your sleep to see if this is an area in which you need support. If you struggle with getting quality sleep, consider taking a high-quality magnesium supplement before bed (talk to your provider to get your correct dosage and type of magnesium). There may be other underlying factors that are impacting your sleep quality that a Functional Medicine Doctor can help you investigate.
Eat whole, organic foods (as close to the anti-inflammatory Mediterranean diet as possible, like fruit, vegetables, fish, and omega-3 fatty acids). Eating this type of diet can help reduce inflammation and lower your risk for heart disease.
Focus on blood sugar stabilization. Long-term high blood sugar can nearly double your risk of heart disease, even if you haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes. Choose foods that have a low sugar content and pair sweeter foods with a protein to avoid spikes in blood glucose.
Eat heart-healthy foods – Choose foods that have been studied to help with cardiovascular disease including, legumes, green tea, mushrooms, Vitamin B12 (when dietary deficiencies are present), fermented foods, seaweed, and spirulina.
Avoid red meat, sugar, processed foods, saturated fats, and energy drinks. All of these foods create inflammation in your body.
Incorporate stress reduction/management practices into your daily routine. These could include yoga, meditation, grounding, breathing exercises, journaling, talking to a therapist, walking outside in nature, and/or diving into mindset work.
Work with a Functional and Integrative Doctor to take an in-depth look at your risks, identify sources of inflammation and guide your healing efforts to maintain a healthy heart.
Once you make these changes, you can retest yearly to know your heart numbers and to see the improvements that impact your heart health. This will show you that you CAN take back control of your heart health and motivate you to keep living a healthy lifestyle.
Can you get heart problems after COVID?
While COVID primarily targets the lungs, the lasting implications can extend further as we’ve seen in many of our long-covid patients. In fact, heart problems after covid could be your primary concern at the moment. A recent massive study showed a long-term, significant rise in the risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke, after a SARS-CoV-2 infection.
If you think your heart health is being impacted by covid’s lasting effects, I highly encourage you to read our previous blog on long-covid and the steps you can take to heal your body after experiencing lasting long-COVID symptoms.
With a preventative and lifestyle medicine concierge membership, you can know your numbers, reduce your risk of heart disease and optimize your overall health naturally to live a longer, healthier life. Plus, you’ll receive full comprehensive care for one set price.
As a previous Emergency Medicine physician, Dr. Dersam is passionate about helping patients find out their risk of heart disease with in-depth cardiac risk testing. She then designs an individualized health plan to reduce your risk. Her design of care will also help you avoid diabetes, autoimmune disorders and even cognitive decline.
Using her experience in traditional medicine, paired with her expertise in Functional and Integrative Medicine, you receive the best of all three approaches. The bonus for you, is not only knowing your risk for a heart attack, but having a plan of action to change your health path. You will also gain energy, improve gut health, sleep better and increase your longevity. Dr. Dersam and her team will be there to support you the entire way with health coaching, nutrition guidance and mind/body techniques including acupuncture.
If you’re looking to improve your heart health risks and embrace a healthier life, contact Dr. Dersam’s office today at 480-621-8638 to learn more about our Concierge Membership!
Dr. Cheri Dersam
Dr. Dersam is board certified in both Integrative and Emergency Medicine and fellowship trained in Functional Medicine. Dr. Dersam focuses on a personalized approach that empowers each patient to achieve optimal health in mind, body and spirit.