In the United States, a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease, usually hypertension (high blood pressure) or dyslipidemia (elevated cholesterol and lipids), often marks the beginning of multiple medication therapy. A multiple medication regimen not only can be difficult and expensive to maintain, but quite often brings on drug-induced nutrient depletions due to actions of the medications used.
With the potential problems of unaddressed cardiovascular disease and the adverse effects of the medications used to treat this disease, many individuals attempt to address their cardiovascular issues with nutritional options. However, before turning only to dietary supplements, it's important to consider the impact of lifestyle changes as well.
Tobacco kills more than 8 million people each year. More than 7 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use, while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke. (1)
In adults, second-hand smoke causes serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer. In infants, it raises the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. In pregnant women, it causes pregnancy complications and low birth weight.
Tobacco use is one of the largest preventable causes of deaths in the U.S. and globally.
Diet and Nutrition
Whole fruit and vegetables are staples in a healthy diet. Simply consuming a higher proportion of fruits and vegetables such as leafy green vegetables and berry consumption (3 servings per week) have been shown to have positive health benefits.
Saturated fats found in a variety of processed foods, red meat, cheese, whole milk, and butter and should be limited in a healthy diet. Mono- and polyunsaturated fats should also be consumed in moderation.
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans offers the following recommendations about fat intake:
- Avoid trans fat.
- Limit saturated fat to less than 10 percent of calories a day.
- Replace saturated fat with healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. (2)
In addition to a well-balanced diet, high-quality nutritional or dietary supplements can also offer the body extra support. Heart-healthy supplements that may reduce inflammation and promote heart health, such as curcumin, vitamin D, omega-3 fish oil, and coenzyme Q10.
Regular moderate-to-vigorous physical activity reduces the risk of many adverse health outcomes. According to the CDC, only 24.0% of adults met physical activity guidelines in 2018. (3) Many adults spend a large portion of their time being sedentary (sitting). Being physically active and reducing sedentary behavior can benefit health. Regular physical activity (at least 150 minutes a week) is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease and stroke.
Cardiovascular Diseases and Women
In the United States, cardiovascular disease kills approximately one woman every 80 seconds. Nearly 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented. However, cardiovascular diseases continue to be the most significant health threat to women.
Know the Signs
Women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as:
- Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in one or both arms
- Nausea or vomiting
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Unusual fatigue
These symptoms may be vague and not as noticeable as the crushing chest pain often associated with heart attacks.
Typically, women wait longer than men to go to an emergency room when having a heart attack. Both women and physicians are slower to recognize the symptoms of heart attacks in women because the 'characteristic' patterns of chest pain and EKG changes are less frequently present.
If you experience any of these signs or symptoms, do not wait to call for help. Dial 9-1-1, make sure to follow the operator's instructions and get to a hospital right away. Try to stay as calm as possible and take deep, slow breaths while you wait for the emergency responders. Do not drive yourself or have someone drive you to the hospital unless you have no other choice.
For more information about a heart-healthy lifestyle, prevention, testing, or treatment, speak with your doctor about the current state of your heart health.