I’m going to go out on a limb and state that death from heart disease is almost 100% preventable. So why is it still the #1 killer in the US and other industrialized nations?
Doesn’t this seems like a contradiction? If it’s so easy to prevent and research has shown what you need to do to protect your heart, so why the disparity? Maybe the researchers are all wrong and heart disease is just genetic. Given how often I hear this in my office, the “genetics” excuse has got to be at least partially correct, right?
Maybe the things you need to do to protect your heart are just too extreme to adopt. A lifestyle along the lines of the Dalai lama hidden in the mountains of Tibet? Running with the Hazda hunter-gatherers in east Africa? Hunting seals with the Inuit Eskimos of Greenland? Spending every waking moment in the gym on the treadmill or chanting a mantra in a yoga class?
Not even close. The American Heart Association have identified 7 key factors for ideal cardiovascular health (termed “Life’s Simple 7”). NONE of these are even remotely impossible to obtain. You just need to make the choice. Here they are:
- Being a non-smoker
- BMI < 25 (it is actually better to go by body fat percentage or waist-to-hip ratio–any “buff” weightlifter will have a higher BMI than this)
- Physical activity at least 150 min/wk moderate intensity or 75 min/wk vigorous intensity or combination (regular readers will know I’m a big fan of short-burst aerobic, which has been shown to have better cardiac benefits)
- At least 4-5 components of a Healthy Diet Score (a pretty simple task, actually…details by clicking here)
- Total cholesterol less than 200 mg/dl (UNMEDICATED!!!!)
- Blood pressure less than 120/80
- Fasting blood sugar less than 100 mg/dl
With this in mind, this particular study looked at 1,731 adults (average age 56.8) to see how much these 7 factors had an effect on plaquing of the arteries feeding the heart muscles (specfically measured as coronary artery calcium, or CAC, scores as measure by cardiac CT). The CAC rating goes from 0 to 400, with anyone having a score of 100 or more to be considered as having heart disease. Using this scale, here’s what they found:
- The average number of ideal cardiovascular lifestyle factors was 3.
- Not a sinlge participant (out of 1,731) met all 7 factors.
- Those who had 2 factors were 63% less likely to have a 100 CAC score.
- Those who had 3 factors were 62% less likely.
- Four or more factors had a 73% lower chance of having a CAC of 100 or more.
Now, I’m not saying that a 73% lower chance means heart disease has been prevented. There are other ways to check for heart disease besides CAC. But it sure has to be a good thing. Keep in mind that these 7 factors are really the low hanging fruit of prevention. When you get into more specific heart-healthy lifestyles (avoiding chemical exposures like BPA and Teflon, short-burst aerobic, a good night’s rest, etc…) these numbers will skyrocket. For those really interested in learning more, you can check out my Heart Disease eBook on Amazon by clicking here.
To me, though, the sickening part is that NONE out of 1,731 adults were meeting all 7 factors for heart disease prevention. NONE. As in ZERO. Is our society that incredibly sick that making lifestyle choices to protect our heart is out of the question?
Until we wake up as a society, stand up and say “enough is enough,” heart disease, a completely preventable condition, will continue to top the charts as the #1 killer.