Preventing sudden cardiac arrest, heart disease, and heart failure sounds like a pretty good idea. But societies all around the world have spent a bazillion dollars on how to treat heart disease and heart failure and sadly, have never found a cure. There are lots of wonderful drugs and procedures to “manage” heart disease and heart failure, but no cures. Health care systems can keep you alive longer after heart disease starts but can’t cure it. Too bad only a very small fraction of dollars are currently, or ever have been, spent on preventing heart disease.
For the past few decades, research is showing that most heart disease starts in childhood and in most cases are preventable. When you look at heart disease you can trace the cause backwards to its beginning. Heart disease starts after you have one or more of its risk factors, i.e.:
- High bad cholesterols and/or low good cholesterol
- Physical inactivity / Sedentary lifestyle
- Tobacco smoking and/or exposure
- High blood pressure
Some of the risk factors that cause heart disease are health behaviours; specifically smoking and physical inactivity. Other risk factors for heart disease are diseases; specifically diabetes, hypertension, cholesterolemia and obesity. When you look at these diseases and look at their causes, you will find health behaviours again; specifically physical inactivity, how much you eat, and what foods you eat. So ultimately heart disease and its risk factors are initially caused by four (4) unhealthy behaviours starting early in life:
- Smoking / smoke exposure,
- Physical inactivity,
- Eating too much, and,
- Eating unhealthy foods
With that said, your genetics can accelerate or help hinder heart disease and its risk factor diseases. We are stuck with our genetics, but we can have good health behaviours.
Most heart disease can be prevented, but you need to start early, before the age of nine (9) years old. This just means kids and families need to establish consistent good health behaviours, i.e., no smoke exposure, be physically active, don’t overeat, and eat healthy foods.
The sweet thing about good health behaviours is that if you didn’t get started early, it’s ok. Starting good health behaviours at any time will slow down or even stop the progression of heart disease. How? The little bumps inside your coronary arteries, atherosclerotic plaques, need 1 or more of the risk factors to start, and to grow bigger. These risk factors need poor health behaviours to start and persist. Clean up your health behaviours and you reduce or eliminate your risk factors, which in turn reduces or eliminates the progression of plaque growth (heart disease).
This is the first in a series of blogs that will help show how our healthy behaviours and unhealthy behaviours put us at risk for heart disease which leads to death, or heart failure and then death. On a more positive note, developing healthy behaviours at any point in life has a huge impact on our quality of life as we grow older.