In my blog entry last week, I discussed the prevalence of heart disease in women, but it is also America's number one cause of death in men. In fact, more than one in three adult men has some form of heart disease.
This probably comes as no surprise to most people, since heart disease is widely considered the "man's disease" even though it affects both males and females. The biggest difference between men and women is the age of onset; a man's risk of developing heart disease greatly increases at age 45, while it typically doesn't show up in women until age 55. There are many factors that may make men more susceptible to getting heart disease at a younger age, including the effects of male sex hormones.
In addition to age and gender, another risk factor you can't do much about is your family history; your chances of developing heart disease are much greater if you have a close family member who has or had the disease.
However, there are many lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk of developing heart disease:
- Quit smoking. Heart attacks are more common in smokers than in nonsmokers.
- Eat a healthy diet. A diet that is high in fat, salt and cholesterol can contribute to the development of heart disease.
- Lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure can narrow your vessels, restricting your blood flow.
- Control your blood cholesterol. High cholesterol can increase the risk of plaque buildup and atherosclerosis.
- Chill out. Stress may damage your arteries and worsen other heart disease risk factors.
- Break a sweat. Physical inactivity is associated with many forms of heart disease. Obesity typically increases your odds of developing heart disease as well, so exercise that helps to control your weight will also lessen your risk of heart disease.
In the end, I want to stress the importance of following these tips to help maintain good heart health - whether you are a male or female. American Heart Month is a great time to reflect on your heart health and make any necessary lifestyle changes that can ultimately affect your future.
To learn more about heart health, visit mountnittany.org, or call 814.689.3140.