Heart Health: Understanding the Causes and Improving Your Cardiac Health

Heart diseases pose a global challenge to public health. In the United States, heart disease remains a leading health concern. According to The American Heart Association, between 2017 and 2020, 127.9 million US adults, or about 48% of the population, had some form of cardiovascular disease. This includes conditions such as coronary artery disease, heart failure, and stroke.

However, heart diseases are not an inevitable outcome. They can be prevented. By taking proactive steps, we can significantly improve our heart health and reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD).

At Home Health Companions, we believe in placing the heart at the core of overall well-being. As home health care providers, we understand the critical role a healthy heart in a person’s well-being, and we’re committed to supporting our client’s heart health. That’s why, in this article, we are exploring everything you need to know about heart diseases and how to live with them.

What causes heart disease?

Several factors cause heart diseases. Some are personal (uncontrollable) factors, while others are (modifiable) lifestyle choices. Medical conditions also play a significant role in developing a heart disease.

Personal Factors

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), several health personal factors, including your age and family history can increase your risk of developing a heart disease. The CDC notably claims that heart diseases can develop at any age, but the risk goes up significantly as you age.

Men and women experience different risks and experiences with heart disease. Generally, men are more at risk of developing a heart disease, but once women reach menopause they become more at risk than men. Hormonal changes, such as the decline in estrogen levels that occurs after menopause, contributes to an increased risk for women.

Likewise, a family history of heart disease can raise an individual’s risk. For instance, if a close relative has experienced heart disease or had a heart attack at an early age (before age 55 for men or before age 65 for women), individuals find themselves more at risk of developing heart disease.

Lifestyle Factors

Some factors contributing to high heart disease risk are controllable and based on an individual’s lifestyle. For example, unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise, and stress lead to higher risks of developing heart diseases.

Smoking, for instance, damages the lining of the arteries, which makes it easier for fat deposits to build up and cause blockages. Moreover, a diet high in saturated and trans fats, salt, and sugar can lead to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity. These conditions increase the risk of heart disease. In addition, a sedentary lifestyle also contributes to development of heart diseases.

Medical Conditions

Medical conditions such as high blood pressure and cholesterol or diabetes can increase the risk of heart disease. For instance, high blood pressure can damage the arteries by making it easier for fat deposits to build up, while high cholesterol can lead to the accumulation of plaque in the arteries. Diabetes can damage blood vessels and nerves, which affects the heart’s ability to function properly.

These medical conditions are well known to Americans. According to the American Heart Association, from 2017 to 2020, over 120 million US adults had hypertension, while more than 111 million had high cholesterol, and an estimated 29.3 million, 10.6% of the US adults had been diagnosed with diabetes. These conditions, however, can often be managed through medication, lifestyle changes, and regular medical checkups.

Can heart diseases be reversed?

While the short answer is ‘yes,’ it depends on the severity and type of heart disease. Some heart diseases are difficult to reverse, but some of them can be either slowed down reversed through lifestyle changes, medications, and medical procedures.

According to a recent study published in the Harvard Medical School, a plant-based diet low in saturated fat and rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can reduce the risk of heart disease significantly. Other studies have shown that exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight can also improve heart health and reverse some types of heart disease.

At Home Health Companions, we understand the importance of heart health and offer personalized care plans to help our clients maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle. Our in-home companionship and care services support activities such as exercise, meal planning and preparation, medication management, and more. By working with our experienced caregivers, our clients can improve their cardiovascular health while reducing their risk of heart disease.

Symptoms of poor heart health

Symptoms of poor heart health vary from person to person, and some affected individuals don’t experience any symptoms at all. However, common symptoms of heart disease include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort: These pains and discomforts often feel like pressure, tightness, or a squeezing sensation in the chest. They also sometimes spread to the arms, neck, jaw, back, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath: Shortness of breath often occurs during physical activity or at rest. It’s sometimes accompanied by a feeling of tightness in the chest.
  • Irregular heartbeat: Irregular heartbeat feels like a fluttering or racing sensation in the chest.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness: These sensations occur suddenly and without warning and often come with a nauseous feeling.
  • Fatigue: Fatigue that indicates poor health occurs even with minimal physical activity.

 

If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. To determine if you have heart disease, your doctor may recommend diagnostic tests such as an electrocardiogram (ECG), echocardiogram, or stress test. Early detection and treatment can help prevent complications and improve outcomes.

How to live with heart disease?

Living with a heart disease requires adopting a healthy lifestyle and making necessary changes to manage the condition effectively. The American Heart Association provides valuable guidance through their “Life’s Simple 8” framework, which focuses on eight essential components for maintaining heart health.

Here are key strategies for living well with heart disease:

  1. Maintain a heart-healthy diet: Prioritize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and limit saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars.
  2. Exercise regularly: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week, along with muscle-strengthening exercises twice a week.
  3. Maintain a healthy weight: Achieve and maintain a body weight, namely, a weight appropriate for your height and body composition, to reduce the strain on the heart.
  4. Control blood pressure: Monitor your blood pressure regularly and work with your healthcare provider to manage it within a healthy range.
  5. Manage cholesterol levels: Follow your healthcare provider’s guidance to keep your cholesterol levels in check through a combination of lifestyle changes and medication if necessary.
  6. Reduce blood sugar levels: If you suffer from diabetes or prediabetes, it’s crucial to manage your blood sugar levels through lifestyle modifications, medication, and regular monitoring.
  7. Quit smoking: Seek support to quit smoking cigarettes or any other tobacco products as smoking significantly increases the risk of heart disease.
  8. Prioritize mental well-being: Manage stress, get enough sleep, and maintain social connections to promote overall mental and emotional health.

Home Health Companions can help you with incorporating these lifestyle modifications so you can enhance your life’s quality and minimize the impact of the condition.

What food and drinks make your heart stronger?

Maintaining a heart-healthy diet is crucial for strengthening your heart and overall cardiovascular health. Here are some key recommendations from The American Heart Association for foods and drinks that can make your heart stronger:

  • Fruits and vegetables: Incorporate a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables into your meals and snacks. These are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber—which helps lower the risk of heart disease.
  • Whole grains: Choose whole-grain options like whole wheat, brown rice, oats, and quinoa. Whole grains provide important nutrients and fiber that contribute to heart health.
  • Lean proteins: Include lean sources of protein such as skinless poultry, fish, legumes, and nuts. These options are low in saturated fat and provide essential nutrients that support a healthy heart.
  • Healthy fats: Choose healthier fats found in foods such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. These fats, especially monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, help improve cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Low-fat dairy products: Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. These provide important nutrients while minimizing saturated fat intake.
  • Limit added sugars: Reduce the consumption of foods and drinks that contain added sugars. Choose naturally sweet options like fruits and limit sugary beverages and desserts.
  • Control sodium intake: Control your sodium (salt) intake by choosing low-sodium options and avoiding excessive use of salt in cooking and at the table. High sodium intake can contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay properly hydrated. Water is essential for overall health and helps maintain normal bodily functions.

How long does it take to strengthen your heart?

Improving heart health is a lifelong process, but you can start making healthy lifestyle choices today. These changes will start impact your heart positively within a few weeks or months. Regular exercise also improves heart health within a few weeks, and a healthy diet can lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure within a few months.

It’s important to note that while these foods can be beneficial for heart health, they should be part of a balanced diet and not consumed excessively. It’s also important to limit the consumption of processed foods, sugary drinks, and saturated and trans fats. These foods increase the risk of heart disease.

Your heart health and Home Health Companions

Heart health is essential for overall physical health and wellness. Understanding the causes of heart disease and healthy lifestyle choices can help prevent and even reverse heart disease. At Home Health Companions, we strive to raise awareness about the importance of heart health and provide resources to support heart-healthy lifestyles. Our trained caregivers and healthcare professionals can assist you with medication management, diet and exercise plans, and other personalized care needs.

Whether recovering from a cardiac event, managing a chronic condition, or looking to improve your heart health, Home Health Companions is here to support you on your journey. Small lifestyle changes and personalized care make a large difference in overall heart health and quality of life.