When it comes to serious health problems for adults in the U.S., few conditions are cause for more concern than heart attack and stroke. One out of every four deaths each year in the U.S. is the result of heart disease, which ranks as the leading cause of death in the country, according to statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Someone in the U.S. suffers a stroke every 45 seconds, resulting in over 128,000 deaths a year, which ranks stroke as the fourth leading cause of death in the country.
Obviously, with such alarming numbers, it’s important that Americans begin to take a serious look at their individual risk factors that could make them a prime candidate to suffer a heart attack or stroke.
A variety of conditions can increase a person’s risk of suffering from either a heart attack or stroke, including atrial fibrillation, diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. To decrease your risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack, it’s important that immediate action is taken to improve the quality of your diet and lifestyle.
You don’t need to spend an hour a day at the gym to lower your risk of suffering from a heart attack. Research shows that even moderate exercise (30 minutes) done daily can lower an individual’s risk of heart attack by 30 to 50 percent. Try to maintain an exercise schedule of 30 minutes a day, five days a week. You can even break this down into two 15 minutes walks a day if necessary.
Set Appropriate Weight Loss Goals
If you suffer from obesity, one of the leading risk factors of both heart attack and stroke, you don’t need to drop several hundred pounds to lower your risk for either condition. Losing just five to 10 percent of your body weight will help to lower your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
Take Your Medication
If your doctor prescribes you a medication, it’s important that you take it as directed. A recent study discovered that roughly 130,000 Americans die each year simply because they failed to follow their doctor’s orders by not taking their heart medications. If you have trouble taking the medication regularly, try to determine why (such as cost, forgetfulness, or side effects) and ask for help from your doctor.
Eating a healthy diet can lower your risk of heart disease by up to 24 percent. A healthy diet should include plenty of whole grains, colorful fruits and vegetables, and lean protein. Ask your doctor to recommend a heart-healthy diet that best fits your needs.
Despite what you might initially think, drinking any type of alcohol actually helps to improve your heart’s health. Of course, drinking too heavily has the opposite effect, and can increase your risk of stroke, heart attack, and the symptoms of atrial fibrillation. So you don’t cross the line between moderate and heavy drinkers, try limiting yourself to one drink a day if a woman and two if a man.
A Little Chocolate Goes a Long Way
A number of studies have shown that individuals who eat small amounts of chocolate once a week decrease their risk of heart disease by approximately 40 percent, and of stroke and diabetes by 30 percent. Dark chocolate seems to have the greatest heart-healthy benefits, but recent studies have also shown milk chocolate to possess many of the same benefits.
Obviously quitting smoking will lower your risk of developing a number of diseases, but quitting smoking can also improve the health of those around you. Every year, around 46,000 people die due to heart disease related to second-hand smoke exposure.
Go to the Dentist
Even if the connection doesn’t seem obvious, research has shown that individuals who have their teeth cleaned twice a year lower their risk of stroke by 13 percent and heart attack by 24 percent. Your dentist may also spot early signs of heart disease, such as loose teeth or swollen gums, before you or your physician notice any symptoms, allowing you to receive early treatment that could further decrease your risk.
Pay Attention to Symptoms
If you experience shortness of breath, frequent exhaustion, or a change in heart rhythm, don’t assume these symptoms will go away, especially if you have a family history of either disease. Make sure you report any symptoms immediately to your doctor.