Heart disease is number one when it comes to leading causes of death for men in the United States. In 2009, more than 307,000 men died of heart disease, which adds up to 1 in 4 male deaths. Furthermore, heart disease is the number one cause of death in Oklahoma. About 9,426 people in Oklahoma died of heart disease in 2010.
So what does this mean and what can you do to improve your heart health?
Heart disease is an all-encompassing term for diseases that affect your heart. These diseases can include coronary artery disease (CAD), arrhythmias, heart infections and heart defects you're born with (congenital heart defects). Heart disease can also include cardiovascular disease, which generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke. Although heart disease is the leading cause of death in both women and men, men typically suffer from heart disease at an earlier age than women. Some of the reasons why men are more prone to heart disease are unrelieved emotional stress and abdominal fat.
Many men are hesitant to express themselves emotionally, and typically feel limited in ways in which they can relieve themselves of emotional stress. Men often find it difficult to express themselves emotionally in the workplace, such as through crying, which can often relieve stress. Men who have apple-shaped bodies, or those who store additional weight around the waist, have been shown to suffer from heart disease more often than men and women with pear-shaped bodies, or those who store their additional weight around the hips and thighs.
Start in the Morning
An easy way to improve your health and prevent against heart disease is to make a habit of eating breakfast each morning. Harvard researchers found that men who said they skipped breakfast had a higher risk of suffering from a heart attack or coronary heart disease. Leah Cahill of the Harvard School of Public Health said that “skipping breakfast may lead to one or more risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, which may in turn lead to a heart attack over time.”
Researchers also found that eating late at night can lead to coronary heart disease. One of the simplest ways to prevent against heart attacks is to eat a healthy breakfast every morning, such as eating a bowl of cereal and add nuts, fruit, or oatmeal. Eating a breakfast that provides more energy and is filling can help cut down on unhealthy snacking.
Exercise is also a great way to keep healthy and prevent against heart disease. Exercise can help strengthen your heart and improve circulation and help your body use oxygen better. It can help lower blood pressure and strengthen bones. Overall, exercise, healthy diet and regular check-ups with your doctor to monitor your heart are your best bets at preventing heart disease.
Though it is not easy for many people to quit smoking, it can cut your heart disease risk in half after only one year. There are more benefits long-term. After 15 years, the risk for heart disease is the same as a non-smoker’s. Talk with your health care provider for support and smoking cessation programs. Online resources like Freedom from Smoking, are also available.
Talk to Your Family
Understand your unique risk of developing heart disease by talking to your family members about their own heart health. Family history of heart disease is not something you can change, but it does have a dramatic impact on your risk and researchers are still learning more about how much it increases your risk. If you have heart disease in your family, talk to your health care provider before it becomes a problem for you. Get control of other risk factors like hypertension (high blood pressure) and high cholesterol through medication therapies or lifestyle modifications.