What are Your Risk Factors?
Since atherosclerosis precedes or accompanies a number of cardiovascular and circulatory conditions (stroke, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, angina, heart attack, etc.) the risk factors for all these diseases tend to parallel those for atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis risk factors include:
Factors you can influence
- elevated C-reactive protein" (CRP) levels in the blood.
- elevated cholesterol levels, particularly LDL (bad) cholesterol.
- Elevated blood triglyceride levels.
- being a smoker or being exposed to tobacco smoke.
- having high blood pressure.
- diet - eating fatty foods (particularly those rich in hydrogenated oils) and foods that are overly processed are believed to contribute towards heart disease.
- Having diabetes.
- living a sedentary lifestyle.
- Being overweight.
- dealing poorly with ongoing stress.
Factors you can't influence
- your age: over 45 for men and over 55 for women.
- family medical history of heart attack or stroke before age 65, angina, or the tendency to develop high blood cholesterol or blood pressure.
- ethnicity: African, South Asian and First Nation populations are at greater risk.
While some risk factors for heart disease cannot be addressed (your age, family history and ethnicity), many of the contributing factors are linked to the lifestyle you choose to lead. Here are the primary ways in which you can reduce your risk of atherosclerosis and other forms of heart disease.
If you are a smoker, quit! Many excellent products to help you stop smoking may be found at your local pharmacy. The Internet is also a valuable source of information on smoking cessation.
If you are overweight, see your doctor about starting a weight-reduction program. Consuming a prudent diet, combined with regular exercise, will help those pounds melt away.
Get exercising. Studies show that even moderate exercise (a half-hour walk once a day, six days a week), will help balance cholesterol levels in the long run, reduce triglyceride levels and help you lose weight. Regular exercise can also help you to manage stress and improve the efficiency of your heart, lungs and muscles.
Improve your diet. Add hemp oil, high-lignan flax oil and pumpkin oil and more fatty fish like salmon or sardines to your diet, which contain health promoting omega 3 fatty acids - studies have shown that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids may lower triglyceride levels, reduce platelet aggregation or clumping, and improve the functioning of cells that line the heart and blood vessels; add fresh fruit and vegetables (organic whenever possible); eat garlic, turmeric and ginger as they have proven heart benefits; eat more legumes (beans, peas)
Get rid of "bad fat". Try to eliminate your intake of the heart disease-promoting hydrogenated oils (trans-fatty acids). Cut down on foods rich in animal fats, particularly fatty meats (beef, pork) and high-fat dairy products.
Eat smaller meals and incorporate high-quality protein snacks throughout the day to aid in increasing insulin sensitivity. This is especially important for people who have been diagnosed withdiabetes. When blood sugar is not kept in control the excess blood sugar (glucose) actually causes damage to the artery lining (glycosylation) so it is essential to keep your blood sugar as level as possible.
Take a coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) supplement. CoQ10 is an important antioxidant that the heart uses to protect itself from the damaging compounds by the cells during the process of metabolism. As we age, the amount of CoQ10 produced by the heart diminishes. Taking certain drugs (e.g. cholesterol lowering drugs such as HMG CoA reductase inhibitors) also lower heart-protective CoQ10 levels.
Make sure you get enough calcium. Cutting down on fat-rich dairy products can impact your intake of calcium. This mineral is essential for the cardiovascular system to function normally. Recent studies show that people who have enough calcium in their diet are less likely to develop high blood pressure, a key risk factor for heart disease and stroke. If you are not getting enough calcium, consider taking a supplement. (Better calcium supplements also contain magnesium and vitamin D to aid absorption and maintain calcium/magnesium balance.) The recommended daily intake of elemental calcium is 1,200 mg a day for adult women, between 1,500 and 1,800 mg a day if you are pregnant or lactating, and 1,500 mg a day if you have passed menopause. Men over 19 should take 1,000 mg calcium a day.
Make sure you get enough magnesium. Not eating many grains and green vegetables can impact your intake of magnesium. Magnesium is another mineral that is essential for the cardiovascular system to function normally. Magnesium is necessary for relaxation of the smooth muscles that surround your blood vessels. Recent studies show that people who have enough magnesium in their diet are less likely to develop high blood pressure, a key risk factor for heart disease and stroke. If you are not getting enough magnesium, consider taking a supplement.
Make sure you get enough B vitamins. The B vitamins folic acid, B6 and B12 in particular reduce homocysteine levels in the blood. Elevated homocysteine levels may increase the risk of developing arteriosclerosis. B vitamins are found in fruits and green, leafy vegetables and other wholesome foods. You may wish to take a multi-vitamin to make sure adequate levels of these B vitamins are being consumed daily. Rich sources of folic acid (folate) include citrus fruits, tomatoes, leafy green vegetables, and pinto, navy and kidney beans.
Learn to cope with stress. Mismanaged stress contributes significantly towards high blood pressure and heart disease. Take a stress management course or read up on how to manage the stress in your life.
Consult your doctor / healthcare professional about new food-based non-drug products formulated to help improve quality of life such as Recovery with Nutricol. Recovery has been developed to improve circulation to tissues, speed repair and slow or halt tissue damage.
Look into chelation therapy to find new ways to unblock the arterial wall and to improve circulation. Contrary to the opinions expressed by many medical professionals, the data proving the effectiveness of chelation therapy is extensive. Chelation therapy helps to improve the health of your arteries.
Get hemochromatosis treated if you are diagnosed to have excessive iron blood levels due to the condition hemochromatosis talk to your doctor about ways to normalize your iron levels so that excessive blood vessel damage does not occur.