There are times in life when we feel like we can’t control our own health. And this year—as the coronavirus “pandemic panic” continues to dominate the news channels—you may especially feel this way.
But remember—heart disease causes far more deaths, year in and year out, than coronavirus ever will. Indeed, it’s by far the most common cause of disease and death in older women and men!
Thankfully, there are plenty of natural steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing heart disease, starting today. And I’ll tell you all about three of them in a moment.
But first, let’s discuss the common risk factors and symptoms—including some “silent” symptoms—of heart disease.
Pay attention to your risk factors and silent “symptoms”
If you’re concerned about your heart disease risk, do not delay in getting medical care—and make sure to know your risk factors. Some of the most common are:
1.) Increasing age. As with most chronic diseases, increasing age is the single biggest risk factor for heart disease. Among older women, in particular, heart disease risk relates to their bodies’ natural decrease in estrogen after menopause. But, as I always warn, women shouldn’t opt for hormone replacement therapy as a form of prevention. Instead, just let Nature take its course, as lower estrogen levels serve to protect women against developing some common cancers, including breast cancer. Just be sure to discuss your heart disease risk with your healthcare practitioner—especially if you’re a woman in menopause.
2.) Other chronic diseases. If you suffer from Type II diabetes and/or high blood pressure, you have a higher risk of also developing heart disease…as these conditions are all related. Plus, women with Type II diabetes run a far greater risk of developing cardio-metabolic heart disease at a younger age compared to men.
3.) Family history. You have a greater risk of developing heart disease if an immediate family member, called a “first-degree relative” (such as a parent, sibling, aunt, or uncle) had heart disease at an early age. On the flip side, if your parents, grandparents, or aunts and uncles were super-agers, living to age 90 or older, chances are good that heart health runs in your family.
4.) Chronic and sudden onset of depression. For a long time, experts have noted a connection between depression and heart disease. And now, U.S. researchers even think a history of depression “does predict the development of heart disease.” In fact, people with a depressive disorder or symptoms have a 64 percent greater risk of developing coronary artery disease (CAD). And depressed CAD patients are 59 percent more likely to experience a deadly cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or even cardiac arrest.
5.) Sleep disorders. There is a strong association between sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and heart disease. In fact, according to Harvard scientists, sleep apnea is found in up to 83 percent of people with cardiovascular disease, 35 percent of people with high blood pressure, and 53 percent of people with heart failure, atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat), and stroke. Worse yet, untreated sleep apnea may increase your risk of dying from heart disease by up to 500 percent!
In addition, as I reported earlier this week, a new analysis found that people who had trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, suffered from early morning awakening, or experienced daytime sleepiness due to poor sleep had an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, or suffering a heart attack or stroke, compared to those who didn’t suffer from forms of insomnia at all.
6.) Chemotherapy and radiation. These toxic mainstream treatments for cancer can cause serious, long-term damage to the heart (and the lungs).
7.) Chronic inflammation. As I often report, chronic inflammation is at the root of many chronic diseases, including heart disease. There’s also an association between chronic inflammation and a poor diet, obesity, and stress. Which brings me to the last set of risk factors…
8.) “Manageable” risk factors. Of course, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, obesity, a poor diet, and lack of physical activity are all risk factors for developing heart disease. But they’re all factors that you can manage with some simple lifestyle changes. (More about those in a moment.)
Get to know the warning signs
Even if you don’t have any of these risk factors, you should still be aware of the major symptoms of a heart problem. And if you do experience any of them, make sure to seek medical care and talk with your doctor about what triggers them, how long they last, what they mean, and what to do about them.
Here are some serious warning signs to which you should always pay attention:
- A feeling of sudden heartburn or epigastric pain (over your stomach) could also be a signal that something is wrong with your heart.
- A fluttery or abnormal heartbeat usually indicates a type of arrhythmia, such as atrial fibrillation (a-fib).
- Angina can feel like tightness or pressure in your chest or throat (like a fist tightening and turning). It can also extend down your left shoulder to your left arm or upward, along your jaw.
- Sudden, excruciating pain or tightness in your chest, shoulder, and/or arm, and/or difficulty breathing. These symptoms signal that you may be having a heart attack. Call 911 immediately, as getting treatment quickly can limit damage to the heart muscle and could even save your life.
You may also experience slow, silent signs of a heart problem. For example, be aware of:
- Feelings of breathlessness. This symptom can be associated with heart problems, particularly when you don’t have an upper respiratory infection, allergies, asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Chronic fatigue. If you experience extreme tiredness not otherwise explained, and it continues for days, it could be a sign of a silent heart attack or heart failure.
- Edema (swelling of tissues under the skin). This symptom, particularly in the lower legs and ankles, can also be a sign of heart failure. It occurs when the heart doesn’t pump efficiently, so blood and fluids back up through the veins and into the tissues. Fluid tends to pool in ankles and feet—due to the effects of gravity.
Here’s what you can do—starting today
If you don’t have any of these risk factors or symptoms, that’s great news! But you should still adopt these three heart-heathy habits to keep it that way…
1.) Enjoy a heart-healthy diet. A wealth of evidence shows that you can reduce your risk of heart disease by adopting a wholesome Mediterranean-type diet, which includes plenty of:
- Full-fat dairy (including organic whole milk, cheeses, yogurts, and butter)
- Fruits and vegetables
- Nuts and Seeds
- Organic, grass-fed and grass-finished meats
- Wild-caught fish and seafood
- Olive oil
- Alcohol in moderation
2.) Get moving a few times a week. Studies show getting just 2.5 hours total per week of moderate exercise is optimal for heart health, especially as you get older. Any more than that amount may overtax your heart (as well as your joints and eyes) and could cause more harm than good. Walking, hiking, and swimming are excellent choices for moderate exercise, particularly outside in Nature where you can soak up some sun. And remember—even light gardening, yardwork, and housework count toward your weekly total.
3.) Manage stress. Practicing a mind-body approach, such as mindfulness meditation or acupuncture, can do wonders for lowering your stress—the No. 1 hidden cause of high blood pressure. (This short quiz will help determine which approaches will work best for your “emotional type.” To learn more about “emotional types,” refer to my book with Mike Jawer, Your Emotional Type.)
Enjoying alcohol in moderation as part of a healthy Mediterranean diet can also help reduce your stress. (As always, I recommend one to three glasses, depending on your body size and other circumstances.)
Of course, there are many other natural approaches to support your heart health in addition to the ones I’ve touched on today. I recommend finding a doctor who’s willing to discuss them with you. You can also learn all about many safe, effective, and natural approaches to protecting your heart in my Heart Attack Prevention and Repair Protocol. To learn more about this comprehensive online learning tool, or to enroll today, click here now!
“Women & heart disease,” Centerscope, spring 2020. (medstarwashington.org/our-hospital/publications/center-scope-newsletter/)
“Heart disease and depression: A two-way relationship.” National Institutes of Health, 4/16/17. (nhlbi.nih.gov/news/2017/heart-disease-and-depression-two-way-relationship#:~:text=Stewart%20noted%20that%20there%20is,to%20have%20a%20future%20adverse)
“How sleep apnea affects the heart.” Harvard Heart Letter, February 2013. (health.harvard.edu/heart-health/how-sleep-apnea-affects-the-heart)