Experts validate 5 factors that drastically affect heart disease risk

If you have a family history of heart problems, you might assume that you’re a time bomb waiting to go off and that there’s little you can do about your heart disease risk.

But you’d be wrong.

As much as 90 percent of our risk for heart disease, peripheral artery disease and stroke comes from habits and factors that are under our control.

We’re talking about things like smoking, poor eating habits, belly fat, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, inactivity, and alcohol use.

In August, the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) issued their 2021 “Guidelines on Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Clinical Practice.” The last Guidelines from the ESC were issued five years ago, in 2016.

It’s an extensive document that lays out in great detail the risk factors for cardiovascular disease and the interventions that are needed to prevent it.

The following summary of the Guidelines probably won’t hold any huge surprises for you — except maybe the last one — but it validates the importance of these key factors for preventing heart disease.

Key recommendations from the ESC guidelines

Let’s break down some key findings of the most recent Guidelines.

Smoking. Stopping smoking is potentially the most effective preventive measure of all. The risk of cardiovascular disease in smokers younger than age 50 is five times higher than it is in non-smokers.

And don’t be fooled. E-cigarettes are almost as deadly as the real thing. Find other ways to quit smoking.

Exercise. The Guidelines call for at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic physical activity per week.

For the first time, they also recommend that we reduce sedentary time and engage in light physical activity throughout the day.

Diet. Changing from a diet centered around animal protein to one based on plant foods may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

This isn’t news to you, I’m sure. Less than a year ago, we shared findings that a greener version of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet works wonders in terms of weight loss, blood pressure and heart disease.

Weight loss. The 2021 Guidelines place a strong emphasis on weight loss as a key component in preventing heart disease.

For the first time, they state that when diet and exercise don’t produce sufficient weight loss, bariatric surgery should be considered for people who are obese and at high risk of cardiovascular disease. Surprisingly, research in 2020 found greater heart disease benefits were achieved with less weight loss following bariatric surgery than weight loss using lifestyle interventions.

Alcohol. If you have one or more risk factors for atrial fibrillation, it’s best not to drink at all.

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The serious environmental risk to your heart

The ESC Guidelines also mention the threats your heart faces from environmental pollutants. For many, that may seem like a new one on the list of ways to avoid heart disease.

But it’s not.

The effect air pollution has on elevating the risk of heart disease is serious enough that it prompted the medical community, including the World Heart Federation, the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association, and the European Society of Cardiology, to declare it a factor they must address for the sake of their patients.

And even though it may prove difficult to mitigate your exposure, there’s good reason to try…

Where to start? Avoid spending time outside when air pollution levels are high and, when possible, avoid sitting in heavy traffic.

If you have to, keep your car windows rolled up and set your air conditioner to recirculate inside air instead of pulling outside air into the car.

Vitamins can help. A ground-breaking study discovered that people who took B vitamins actually reversed the negative health effects of air pollution on their heart and immune system. The per-day intake of vitamins used in the study was:

  • 2.5 mg of folic acid
  • 50 mg of vitamin B6
  • 1 mg of vitamin B12

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Sources:

How can I avoid heart disease or stroke? — Science Daily

2021 ESC Guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice: Developed by the Task Force for cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice with representatives of the European Society of Cardiology and 12 medical societies With the special contribution of the European Association of Preventive Cardiology (EAPC)European Heart Journal

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Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.