Atherosclerosis: You already know it's bad news. Hardening of the arteries is a leading cause of sickness and death in the United States. In 2005, roughly 870,000 people in this country died of cardiovascular disease largely caused by atherosclerotic problems. That's almost double the number of deaths from all cancers. You might already know what factors put you at risk -- smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and age. But what do you know about ...
"There’s a lot of reason to believe you can trump your family history or promote a healthier, longer life if you focus as early as possible on the risk factors you can control,” says cardiologist Donald Lloyd-Jones, MD, ScM, of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Here are the top 5 habits to change, for your heart's sake:
1. Sit Too Much
You may have heard that "sitting is the new smoking." It's true: Spending a lot of time seated is bad for you. Inactive people are nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease as those who are more active, according to the surgeon general.
Discomfort in one or both arms, or in the back, shoulders, neck, or jaw
3. Put Off Your Check-Up
You can delay doing a lot of things, but when you put off seeing your doctor, your heart may pay the price.
The fix: Make an appointment. A visit to the doctor will let you know if you have high blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood sugar. Left untreated, each of these conditions can damage your heart.
Even if you don’t have a family history of heart disease, you should make an appointment to get these levels tested at least every 5 years, says Lloyd-Jones.
4. Carry a 'Spare Tire'
Being overweight puts extra strain on your ticker and increases the odds you’ll develop heart disease.
“If you store extra weight in your midsection, that in particular raises your risk,” Urman says.
The fix: Talk with your doctor about losing weight, and talk with a nutritionist about maintaining a healthy diet.
Shedding a few pounds can go a long way. Even just a 5% to 10% drop in your weight can lower your heart disease risk.
5. Light Up
If you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, you have more than twice the risk of a heart attack than a person who has never smoked.
“Many of the chemicals in cigarette smoke get into the bloodstream and damage the inner lining of the arteries,” says Lloyd-Jones. Bad cholesterol collects on the artery walls, boosting the risk of heart attack, he explains.
The fix: Quit. No matter how long you’ve smoked, quitting can help reverse damage to the heart and blood vessels, and can dramatically cut your risk of heart disease and heart attack.