February is American Heart Health Month.
Did you know that heart disease accounts for 1 in 7 deaths in the US? It is the leading cause of death in America. Heart disease is a serious condition that can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and other complications. The most common cause of heart disease is atherosclerosis, which is a buildup of plaque in the arteries.
There are many risk factors for heart disease. Some of the most common risk factors are smoking, high blood pressure, obesity or being overweight, lack of exercise or physical activity, and diabetes. People who have these risk factors have a higher chance of getting heart disease than people who do not have them.
Besides being one of the leading causes of death in the United States, it is also one of the most preventable. We all know some of the basic precautions we should be taking to prevent heart disease, but how often do we actually practice what we preach?
Most of the time, heart disease is linked to lifestyle choices.
Recent studies have shown that more than 70% of heart disease cases are linked to lifestyle choices, smoking being the number one risk factor. I can say from my personal experience, my father smoked for 30 years and he suffered from heart disease the following 20 years.
While some people think that they are invincible, there is no such thing. Good habits need to be developed at an early age to counteract any possible risk factors.
We all know some of the basic precautions we should be taking to prevent heart disease. Just to name a few:
- Eating healthy diet
- Exercising regularly
- Watching our stress level
- Proper dental hygiene
- Getting enough sleep
Did you know there are some unusual heart health risks that you don’t hear about every day?
Here are 3 that got my interest:
1. Having 4 or more children may put you at risk for heart disease.
A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that men and women with four or more children had about a 50% higher risk for heart disease than those with just one child. The researchers considered a wide range of factors, including diet, activity levels, waist circumference, smoking status, and others.
The study also found that women who had four or more pregnancies had about a 70% higher risk of cardiovascular disease than those who only gave birth once.
According to Dr. Monika Sanghavi MD, a cardiologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, says multiple pregnancies put extra stress on the body. For this demographic she recommends closely monitoring blood pressure, cholesterol and other heart-health indicators.
2. Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency increases coronary heart disease risks. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and bone health. It also helps regulate the immune system and the nervous system.
People with vitamin D deficiency are at a higher risk for developing cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and congestive heart failure.
This is because vitamin D regulates the production of nitric oxide in the body which helps prevent blood vessels from constricting. When there is not enough vitamin D in the body, nitric oxide production decreases and blood vessels constrict which can lead to high blood pressure and increased risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries).
Even in our sunny California many people are deficient in vitamin D.
Here are few suggestions to improve your vitamin D levels:
a) Eat foods that are high in vitamin D such as eggs, sardines, etc.
b) Morning or later in the afternoon go in the sun 15-20 min without sunscreen
c) Take a good quality vitamin D supplement. BioProtein Technology is one of my favorites
3. Sleeping position and heart health
It's more important than you think. It turns out that the position you sleep in can have a big impact on your heart health. Sleeping on your back is not recommended because it can make the heart work harder and it impairs the flow of blood to that vital organ.
According to a study published in the journal Sleep, sleeping on your back has been found to be more dangerous than sleeping on your side. The study found that people who sleep on their back have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death than those who sleep on their side.
A study at the University of Pittsburg Medical Center revealed that people who sleep on their left side are less likely to have heart attacks. Other research also points to this position as being beneficial for blood pressure, inflammation, and cholesterol levels.
The theory is that when you sleep on your left side, the liver will be in a more horizontal position which will allow it to release fat and other toxins from the body. This is because the liver releases bile when it's in this position and bile is what helps break down these fats and toxins.
In addition to this, sleeping on your left side has been shown to improve symptoms of acid reflux disease as well as reduce symptoms of asthma.
4. BONUS: Shoulder problem and heart disease.
This last one doesn’t contribute to heart disease but I thought you may find it very interesting.
Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found a connection between heart disease risk factors and shoulder problems. “Researchers examined 1,226 laborers like cabinetmakers and air-bag manufacturers, and found that those with the most heart risk factors were almost five times more likely to also have shoulder joint pain or rotator cuff issues compared with those who had no such risk factors.” Read the article
The heart meridian is connected to the subscapularis muscle which is the largest and most powerful muscle of the rotator cuff, and a painful shoulder can be signs of a heart meridian imbalance. Great article on Heart meridian