Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the world today. The likelihood of developing one or more of these conditions is determined by the presence or absence of certain factors and health conditions which contribute to your “cardiovascular risk status”.
Some of these factors are out of our control such as increasing age and family history of CVD. Males are also more likely to develop CVD than premenopausal females, although it is still the leading cause of death in both genders. However, the majority of CVD is caused by risk factors that can be controlled, treated or modified by changes in our lifestyles and behaviours. The most predominant of these risk factors are listed below.
- Raised blood pressure levels
- Tobacco use (especially cigarette smoking)
- Raised blood sugar and cholesterol levels
- Physical inactivity and lack of exercise
- Unhealthy diet
Smoking has been unequivocally shown to significantly raise your cardiovascular risk. If you do smoke, quitting is a very important tool and is one of the best things you can do for your overall health. This also includes minimizing exposure to second-hand smoke.
Diet changes are also extremely important in terms of lowering your overall risk of developing cardiovascular conditions, by reducing risk factors such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. There are many types of foods and ingredients that should be reduced or minimized and there are also those that we should eat more of. It is best to choose mostly healthier, balanced options and consume everything in moderation.
Exercise and physical activity is another excellent way to reduce your risk factors, and a mix of strength training and cardiovascular exercise is ideal. Regular exercise can reduce your blood pressure, strengthen your heart, help you reach and keep a healthy weight, boost mood and lower stress and also helps you sleep better. If you have an existing condition or are considered at high risk, you should always consult your doctor before starting an exercise regimen. You can start out with short bursts of gentle exercise a couple of times per week and slowly build from there. The key however, is to be consistent and to do exercise that you enjoy and will keep doing.
Losing weight is also important to take some of the strain off your circulatory system. It is possible to eat more healthily and exercise without losing weight, so if you are overweight, specific focus needs to be placed on returning to a healthier weight range. This in turn will reduce many of the other risk factors such as high blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure.
Supplements are also a great tool you can use to boost the positive effects of a healthy lifestyle. There are many supplements which have been proven to be beneficial in supporting normal cardiovascular function when used alongside a balanced diet and exercise plan.