Heart disease is the leading cause of death among both men and women in the United States, but according to the American Heart Association, it is preventable 80% of the time.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly 650,000 people die from heart disease every year, accounting for one in every four deaths.
In this article, researchers are sharing tips on prevention and lowering risk, and emphasizing the importance of lowering stress and staying optimistic to help avoid cardiac events.
The research was from cardiologists in the Mount Sinai Health System.
Doctors are seeing more patients, especially women, with stress-related heart conditions.
Most of the stressors involve work or family. Research shows women tend to internalize stress more, making them more prone to stress-related health issues.
Stress releases “fight or flight” hormones that can elevate heart rate and blood pressure, leading to complications including chest pain, palpitations, and irregular heartbeat.
Additionally, those who work long hours, travel frequently, do not sleep enough, and have a poor diet can also have abnormal blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
In some cases, work stress has been so extreme that several patients have actually fainted on the job.
Women and men have different symptoms when it comes to stress-related heart issues.
Men with heart problems feel pain or pressure like an ‘elephant on their chest,’ but for women, that is not the case.
Their symptoms may present as a headache, or they feel like they’re coming down with a cold or have indigestion, and they may not realize they have a heart problem until it becomes more advanced and more difficult to treat.
The team says relaxation is key, and it is important to set aside time for yourself to decompress. They also advise patients to keep a positive attitude and remain optimistic. These simple steps go a long way.
Having an optimistic mindset is linked to a lower risk of cardiac events and all-cause mortality.
In a recent study, researchers reviewed 15 published medical studies, involving 230,000 patients, that tested the link between optimism and pessimism, and the subsequent occurrence of cardiovascular events and/or all-cause mortality.
They found that those with optimism had a 35% reduction in risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiac death when compared to the pessimistic subjects in the study.
The team says everyone is at risk of heart disease, but people are more susceptible to getting the disease if they have high cholesterol or blood pressure, smoke, are overweight, and don’t exercise or eat a healthy diet.
Age is also a factor, specifically for women over 65 and men older than 55, along with those with a family history of heart disease and people who sleep less than six hours a night.
Certain minority groups, including African Americans and Latinos, are also at higher risk due to genetic predisposition, diet, and lifestyle factors.
However, illness in any population can be prevented by taking simple steps towards a healthier lifestyle.
Tips for Lowering Risk
Know your family history and tell your doctor if there is a history of heart disease
Be aware of five key and ideal numbers cited by the American Heart Association
Blood pressure: 120/80 mm Hg
Total cholesterol: less than 200 mg/dL
HDL or “good cholesterol”: 60 mg/dL or higher
Body mass index (BMI): 25 kg/m2
Fasting glucose levels: 100 mg/dL
Maintain a healthy diet, eating nutrient-rich food, limiting salt, and eliminating sweets
Limit alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day
Watch your weight and exercise regularly
One researcher of the study is Icilma Fergus, MD, Director of Cardiovascular Disparities for the Mount Sinai Health System.
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