If we know so much about heart disease, why is it still the #1 killer in the world? 4 of the 6 biggest risk factors are under our direct control. Will you wake up before it’s too late?
Sleepwalking man, 54, hit by truck
“A 54-year-old man apparently walked out into the busy street while he was sleeping and was struck by a white Ford F-350. The man died at the scene in what investigators are calling a gruesome accident.
His distraught wife spoke with reporters earlier. “He would wake up on the couch or in the kitchen, he was like a zombie. He used to joke about it all the time, it was a running joke with his coworkers.”
This morning was different. He lumbered out the door, across his lush green lawn, and into the street.
27 minutes later the news vans arrived to photograph the bloody Ford F-350 and the man who never saw it coming.”
This news story sounds outrageous, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, this happens about every 90 seconds in the US. Except the victims are not asleep. And the F-350 is heart disease.
50% of men and 64% of women who die suddenly from heart disease have no idea they have it
By 1948, heart disease reached epidemic levels and doctors knew little about the cause. Boston University researchers joined with the National Heart Institute to tackle the problem. The Framingham Heart Study was born.
For over 60 years researchers have been studying heart disease. We probably know more about heart disease than any other illness.
Still, heart disease is the #1 killer in the world. Heart disease kills more people worldwide than all cancers combined.
Because most of us are sleepwalking.
Four of the 6 big risk factors for heart disease are under our direct control. All we have to do is wake up.
High blood pressure is called the “silent killer.” It is easy to control – if you know about it. The problem is it produces almost no symptoms until the damage is done. Taking your blood pressure may be as easy as going to the grocery store – most have a blood pressure machine. It takes about 2 minutes, it’s free, and it can add 5 YEARS or more to your life.
Smoking is like shooting a gun in a rubber room with 10 people in it. You’re going to hit at least one of your major organs, you just don’t know which one until it’s hit. Smoking causes 1 out of every 3 deaths from heart disease and secondhand smoke increases the risk of heart disease by 25 – 30%!
I can’t believe smoking is still legal. For the love of all things living, STOP SMOKING.
According to the CDC, people with diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to develop and die from heart disease. Luckily, there are many ways to prevent type 2 diabetes and the risk of heart disease associated with the condition. Recent studies also show that some cases of diabetes are reversible with lifestyle changes. Adopting habits to prevent or reverse type 2 diabetes will greatly reduce your risk of heart disease.
Although the causes of high cholesterol are widely debated (eggs are bad – oh wait, no they’re not…) studies consistently prove that high levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and low levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL) contribute to heart disease. Like blood pressure, high cholesterol has no symptoms. The only way to control this risk factor is to go to the doctor to have blood tests.
Studies show that men are more likely to be at risk for heart disease than women. This is not under our control, and no, becoming a woman if you are a man does not lower your risk. Vanderbilt University School of Medicine declares transgender individuals are often at higher risk for heart disease due to hormone use.
As we age, the risk of heart disease goes up. I guess we can call this “normal wear and tear.”
If we can control the risks for heart disease, why is it still the #1 killer?
These risk factors have one thing in common: they happen without us knowing.
We do not feel blood pressure or cholesterol. Smoking feels good until it feels bad. Insulin resistance and diabetes creep up slowly.
We are sleepwalking through life without knowing how to take care of our heart.
Until one day we wake up in the middle of the road.
The Framingham Heart Study provides interactive calculators using the risk factors above to calculate your 10-year risk of developing heart disease. If you don’t know your cholesterol levels, there is a calculator that uses your body mass index (BMI) which you can calculate here.
This is the first in a series of articles about the heart from Eat My Science! To make sure you get regular updates, please sign up for my newsletter below!