Cardiovascular disease refers to the abnormal condition involving dysfunction of the heart or body’s blood vessels. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diseases of the heart are the leading cause of death in the US and stroke is the third leading cause of death. These two disease categories combined account for more than 35% of all deaths annually. About 80 million Americans of all ages suffer from cardiovascular disease and it’s estimated that in 2008 the cost of this disease was $448 billion!
A number of factors have to do with increasing your risk for cardiovascular disease.
- Being overweight is linked to higher rates of death from this disease because of higher blood pressure, abnormal blood lipids and higher rates of diabetes
- Physical activity can reduce the risk by improving blood lipid levels, lower resting blood pressure, reducing body fat and weight and improving blood glucose levels
- Research shows that smokers have a 70% greater chance of developing cardiovascular disease than non smokers
- High blood pressure stresses the heart and increases the chance that blockage or rupture of a blood vessel will occur
- The risk for cardiovascular disease is three times higher in women with diabetes and two times higher in men with diabetes
- Inflammation is now a major initiator of cardiovascular disease. Inflammation occurs as a response to tissue injury. In arterial walls, this injury may be due to physiological stress– high blood pressure, smoking, high blood lipids or poor glucose control. The resulting inflammatory response eventually leads to the formation of plaque in the arterial walls.
You can estimate your risk of developing cardiovascular disease if you know your blood pressure and blood lipid levels. Diet and exercise are aimed at reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing high levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol while raising HDL cholesterol. Maintaining total fat intake within 20%-35% is important to be healthy. The types of fats should be polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Decreasing dietary saturated fat to less than 7% of total energy intake and cholesterol to 300 mg a day is also important. These will lower your LDL cholesterol level. Selecting lean meats and vegetable alternatives and using fat free or low fat dairy products is a healthful way to lower your cholesterol and fat. Eating throughout the day instead of your calories in the evening right before bed is also a healthy alternative. Also, decreasing your sodium intake to keep blood pressure normal will lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Thompson, Janice, Melinda Manore, and Linda A. Vaughan. The Science of Nutrition. San Francisco, CA: Pearson Benjamin Cummings, 2011. Print.