For the last twenty years or so, the news, mainstream medical community, and probably your very own doctor have been obsessed with high cholesterol. It is considered the villain in every article or book about heart disease…but there are three heart disease risks that you should be more concerned about than your cholesterol!
While cholesterol and healthy fats have been dragged through the mud, conditions much more devastating to the state of your heart health that have been allowed to go unchecked.
These true heart disease culprits have now reached epidemic proportions around the world. This is particularly clear in developed nations that consume the Western Diet, which is also known as the Standard American Diet.
Keep an eye on your cholesterol but if you really want to protect your heart for decades to come, these are the three things you need to focus on getting (and keeping) under control.
Killer Heart Disease Risk #1: HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
Unless you’re getting your vitals checked during a regular doctor’s visit, you might not even think about hypertension – the common term for high blood pressure.
Worldwide, it is estimated that one billion people suffer with hypertension and many of them might not even know it. It is referred to as the “silent killer” because you may never experience a single symptom to alert you to a problem. Most cases remain undiagnosed and untreated.
There are two important numbers that can make the difference between a long healthy life and a very short one:
- Systolic (the first or top number) indicates how much pressure the blood pumping through your veins is putting on your arteries during each heartbeat.
- Diastolic (the second or bottom number) indicates how much pressure remains on your arteries between heartbeats.
Your blood pressure is considered “normal” if it is consistently lower than 120/80 – being consistently higher puts you at risk for hypertension. Readings consistently higher than 140/90 means you probably already have high blood pressure and your risk of heart attack or stroke is increased.
HBP plays a role in 15% of deaths every year. Most people with elevated blood pressure control it with medication. There are ways you can lower it naturally but you should never stop taking prescribed medication until you speak to your doctor.
Exercise is extremely effective as are relaxation exercises, decreasing your caffeine and sodium intake, and eating more potassium-rich fruits and vegetables.
Are you a fan of dark chocolate or red wine? Moderate consumption of both can help lower your blood pressure.
Killer Heart Disease Risk #2: HIGH BLOOD SUGAR
High blood sugar or “hyperglycemia” is widespread, but often overlooked, a threat to your health. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that almost 100 million Americans have diabetes or pre-diabetes. Most with the disease must manage their blood sugar daily.
Experts estimate that 90% of all diabetics – those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes – could prevent and even reverse their diagnosis with the right lifestyle changes.
- Once again, exercise can lower blood sugar levels! There is no getting around the fact that we need movement for a healthier and longer life.
- Decaffeinated coffee can bring your blood glucose levels down, as can unsweetened green tea. In some cases, one cup of green tea has been found to lower blood sugar by as much as 30 points!
- Adding apple cider vinegar to your salad can help block some of the post-meal insulin spike associated with consuming carbohydrates.
- Dashing some cinnamon on to your breakfast, coffee, or dessert has shown great promise in scientific studies. Cinnamon contains a compound called MHCP, which has effects similar to insulin.
- Even relaxation exercises have been shown to be effective for some patients.
Don’t ignore your blood sugar. Get yourself checked at least once a year (or have someone with a glucose monitor check it for you).
Killer Heart Disease Risk #3: OBESITY
In the United States, as of 2016, the CDC reported that more than two-thirds of citizens are considered overweight or obese (2-in-3 people).
Excess weight can be agonizing both physically and emotionally. Recent research links obesity to everything from heart disease to diabetes to cancer while the toll on positive body image can lead to depression and eating disorders.
Some people with a lifetime of weight control struggles move from one diet to another searching for the perfect one. Too often, we expect instant gratification and the fad diets are ready and willing to promise almost overnight success.
Unfortunately, weight loss doesn’t work instantly – or even quickly if you want to keep it off. There is no miracle drug. You didn’t put the weight on overnight and it isn’t going to come off overnight.
The true success or failure of “diet plans” is almost impossible to pinpoint. However, experts generally agree that more than half of dieters regain the weight they lost within the first year – some put that number as high as 95%.
Maintaining a healthy bodyweight is an important place to start to protect your heart. The best results still come from the tried and true combination of exercise and healthier eating habits.
- Avoid food that comes in boxes, bags, or drive-thru windows.
- Cut out white flour, white rice, and white sugar.
- Remove all hydrogenated oils from your kitchen.
- Toss anything that says “low-fat” or “sugar-free” – the alternatives are worse.
- Exercise – every single day – for at least 20 minutes (low-impact counts).
- Make sure you get 8 hours of quality sleep every night.
- Gradually replace a portion of your sodas or high-sugar beverages with water.
To really make an impact on your long-term weight loss and overall health goals, read my book Diet Wise. It’s the best diet because it isn’t a “diet” at all. It shows you how to eat the food that’s exactly right for you…because what works for someone else might be the exact wrong thing for you!
To lower your heart disease risks, you must think bigger…and that starts with the fuel that runs your body, movement, and determination that you won’t stop until you reach your goal.
Lower your blood pressure, blood sugar, and drop those pounds…permanently.
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