“Heart disease is the leading cause of death, but it doesn’t have to be. Simple changes in diet and lifestyle can make a big difference in reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.” ~ Dr. Thomas Frieden
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains a formidable health challenge, claiming lives and impacting the well-being of millions globally.
While the development of CVD is often multifactorial, certain triggers play a significant role in its onset and progression.
In this article, we’ll explore the primary culprits that can trigger cardiovascular disease and the importance of understanding and addressing these risk factors.
The triggers of cardiovascular disease we will be reviewing include:
- Unhealthy Diet and Nutrition
- Physical Inactivity
- Smoking and Tobacco Use
- Excessive Alcohol Consumption
- High Blood Pressure
- Genetics and Family History
- Age and Gender
Triggers of Cardiovascular Disease
1. Poor Diet and Nutrition Habits
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Eating a diet high in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol has been linked to heart disease and related conditions, such as atherosclerosis. Also, too much salt (sodium) in the diet can raise blood pressure.”
Want to take a preventative approach? Adopt a heart-healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
2. Sedentary Lifestyle
A sedentary lifestyle is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Not getting enough physical activity can lead to heart disease. It can also increase the chances of having other medical conditions that are risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.”
Want to take a preventative approach? Incorporate regular physical activity into your routine, aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
3. Use of Tobacco and Smoking
Tobacco smoke contains chemicals that can damage blood vessels and heart tissue.
Smoking is a major contributor to atherosclerosis, a condition characterized by the buildup of plaque in the arteries.
Want to take a preventative approach? Quit smoking and avoid exposure to secondhand smoke. Seek support from healthcare professionals or smoking cessation programs.
Johns Hopkins Medicine states, “Heavy drinking, on the other hand, is linked to a number of poor health outcomes, including heart conditions. Excessive alcohol intake can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure or stroke. Excessive drinking can also contribute to cardiomyopathy, a disorder that affects the heart muscle.”
Want to take a preventative approach? If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. This typically means up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
The British Heart Foundation declares, “Excess weight can lead to fatty material building up in your arteries (the blood vessels that carry blood to your organs). If the arteries that carry blood to your heart get damaged and clogged, it can lead to a heart attack.”
Want to take a preventative approach? Maintain a healthy weight through a combination of regular exercise and a balanced, nutritious diet.
6. High Blood Pressure
The Mayo Clinic has shown that hypertension or “High blood pressure can narrow and damage the arteries that supply blood to the heart. This damage is known as coronary artery disease. Too little blood flow to the heart can lead to chest pain, called angina. It can lead to irregular heart rhythms, called arrhythmias.”
Want to take a preventative approach? Monitor your blood pressure regularly and take steps to manage it through lifestyle changes and, if necessary, medication.
It is important to note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated, “Over time, high blood sugar can damage blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart. People with diabetes are also more likely to have other conditions that raise the risk for heart disease: High blood pressure increases the force of blood through your arteries and can damage artery walls.”
Want to take a preventative approach? Manage diabetes through regular monitoring of blood sugar levels, a healthy diet, regular exercise, and medication as prescribed.
8. Family History and Genetics
A family history of cardiovascular disease can also increase an individual’s risk.
In one of RWJ Barnabas Health’s articles, they wrote, “We each have between 20,000 and 25,000 different genes. Inherited heart conditions are caused by a fault (or mutation) in one or more of our genes. If one of your parents has a faulty gene, there’s a 50:50 chance you could inherit it.”
Genetic factors can influence cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and overall heart health.
Want to take a preventative approach? Be aware of your family history and discuss it with your healthcare provider. Take preventive measures based on your individual risk factors.
9. Age and Gender
In a publication by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), they revealed:
“The aging and elderly population are particularly susceptible to cardiovascular disease. Age is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD) in adults, but these risks are compounded by additional factors, including frailty, obesity, and diabetes. These factors are known to complicate and enhance cardiac risk factors that are associated with the onset of advanced age. Sex is another potential risk factor in aging adults, given that older females are reported to be at a greater risk for CVD than age-matched men. However, in both men and women, the risks associated with CVD increase with age, and these correspond to an overall decline in sex hormones, primarily of estrogen and testosterone. Despite this, hormone replacement therapies are largely shown to not improve outcomes in older patients and may also increase the risks of cardiac events in older adults.”
Want to take a preventative approach? Regular health check-ups become increasingly important with age. Monitor and manage risk factors as you get older.
Chronic stress can contribute to cardiovascular disease indirectly through unhealthy coping mechanisms and behaviors.
The American Heart Association states, “Chronic stress is when stress is constant and your body is in high gear off and on for days or weeks at a time.” Later, they warn that “Chronic stress may lead to high blood pressure, which can increase risk for heart attack and stroke.”
Want to take a preventative approach? Incorporate stress-management techniques into your routine, such as mindfulness, meditation, or regular relaxation activities.
Next Steps to Preventing Cardiovascular Disease
Understanding the triggers of cardiovascular disease is the first step toward prevention.
By addressing modifiable risk factors through lifestyle changes and seeking early intervention for non-modifiable risk factors, individuals can significantly reduce their likelihood of developing heart-related conditions.
It’s crucial to cultivate a heart-healthy lifestyle, undergo regular health check-ups, and work in tandem with healthcare professionals to manage and mitigate cardiovascular risks.
You have what it takes inside you to make a definite choice that will change the future trajectory of your health.
Our team at Tiger Medical has the experience, clinical skills, and coaching acumen to help you get your health and energy back.
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