Heart disease is the biggest killer in the United States, with one in four Americans dying due to some form of the disease. The development of heart disease is most often slow and methodical, progressing over the course of a lifetime. It plagues both men and women, and the warning signs are unfortunately often ignored by the vast majority of individuals. Every year, over 700,000 Americans will have a heart attack due to this unfortunate process – and perhaps the most disheartening piece of the heart disease puzzle is that our current mainstream healthcare system has primarily focused on managing existing disease instead of preventing it from happening.
It’s not an overstatement to say that heart disease is an epidemic. And, quite honestly, the current medical approach has proven to be unsuccessful at best when tasked with addressing the issue. So how do we even begin to answer the question of ‘curable’ when this is our current reality?
We first have to start with a shift in our thought process – a change in how we think about the disease and how we address it from the ground up.
Typically when we think of something as being curable, we immediately are drawn to the idea of a revolutionary medicine or surgery that, when implemented, restores health. Well, in the world of heart disease, this thought process is more of a pipe-dream than a reality. Most of what causes the onset and progression of heart disease are lifestyle factors. If these lifestyle factors are not addressed, the long-term prognosis remains bleak.
Although thinking of heart disease as curable is perhaps not the proper mindset, it is absolutely fair to state that it is reversible to a certain degree – and most definitely a preventable disease altogether.
As briefly stated a moment ago, true progress with heart disease starts with identifying the root cause. High blood pressure, high levels of cardiovascular inflammation, and smoking are three major risk factors for the development of heart disease. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) estimates 47 percent of Americans to have at least one of these key risk factors. The next step involves eliminating what is causing this detrimental damage to the heart. From poor diet, to lack of exercise, to excessive alcohol and tobacco use – a concerted effort at overhauling lifestyle behaviors is necessary in improving cardiovascular health, and thus a better long-term overall health prognosis.
Fixing Heart Disease Requires Accountability
Heart disease costs in the United States amount to over $200 billion every year, and a large chunk of these expenses can be eliminated with better education on individual choices. The vast majority of what moves the needle in the right direction boils down to basic lifestyle alterations. The main issue as it currently stands is that changing these often life-long patterns is easier said than done for many individuals.
It is important to note, though, that it is not impossible. In fact, there is ample scientific and anecdotal evidence to show that incredible progress can be made with very incremental, non-extensive lifestyle change.
Individuals faced with heart disease must be honest with themselves and take their diagnosis seriously. Heart disease is commonly referred to as the “silent killer” because it often doesn’t show itself symptomatically until major progress has already been made – at which point heart attack and stroke are the first (and sometimes last) indicator.
Reducing the Abuse on a Heart
Heart disease regularly occurs when cardiovascular inflammation goes unchecked for a period of time. The blame is often placed solely on cholesterol levels or saturated fat intake, but current scientific evidence does not support either of these things as being the whole story. All of the lifestyle factors mentioned previously dictate the status of the ‘internal environment’ that your cardiovascular system is subjected to, so addressing cholesterol or saturated fat levels without putting them into context will prove to be a losing game. Here at Hill Functional Wellness, we develop a healing plan based on both an individual’s medical history and current medical and lifestyle circumstances. Functional improvement of an individual’s cardiovascular system is then predicated on personalized recommendations – specifically tailored to that person’s unique needs.
With that in mind as a baseline, it is also worth noting that there are a number of helpful tips that all people would be well-served to understand and implement, regardless of where they currently stand:
Drinking Water – A good starting point for water intake is daily consumption equal half an individual’s weight in ounces. Therefore, a 150-pound individual should consume roughly 75 ounces of water a day.
Absorbing Iron – Iron is an important nutrient for a healthy body. If not enough iron is present in a diet, or it is not properly being absorbed by the body, it can result in an insufficient amount of oxygen being delivered to the heart. (note: ALWAYS test iron levels before thinking about addressing iron supplementally)
Eliminating Toxins – Harmful toxic chemicals that are brought into the body via the environment or foods can add to the level of cardiovascular inflammation. Products like weed-killer and bug spray are commonly used household goods that present dangerous chemicals. Remember, many harmful substances are transported through the cardiovascular system on their way to the liver or kidneys to be eliminated.
Stopping Tobacco Use – Tobacco use causes blood vessels to thicken and grow narrow. This increases blood pressure and forces the heart to work harder to circulate blood.
Eating a Proper Diet – Eliminating trans fats, artificial sweeteners, and highly processed foods is a good first step. The Mediterranean diet has shown to be a heart positive diet, and is built primarily around the high consumption of fruits, vegetables, potatoes, beans, nuts, and seeds, with moderate consumption of cold-water fish, poultry, and dairy products on occasion.
Regular Exercise – It is suggested to get at least 30 minutes of daily exercise. This produces positive stress on the heart, promoting resilience, reducing inflammation, and boosting HDL levels.
Getting Good Sleep – Under or oversleeping has proven to negatively impact the heart. We encourage 8 quality hours of sleep every night.
Reducing Daily Stressors – Carrying large amounts of daily stress can cause inflammation on the heart. Finding ways to reduce and cope with stress can help improve heart health. Supplements like omega 3 and valerian root have shown to help reduce stress biomarkers, as well as, yoga, massage therapy, deep-breathing, social support networks, physical touch from loved ones, having a positive self-image, and engaging in hobbies.
Managing Your Heart Health in Tempe, Arizona
If you are concerned you may be at risk for heart disease, or have been diagnosed with heart disease, we are here to help. We will help move the conversation away from ‘management’ of heart disease, and look at what it will take to prevent and eliminate it. Contact us today to schedule an appointment at our Tempe, Arizona office, and we will develop an action plan that works for you and your wonderful heart!