I believed that the biggest risk factor for heart attacks and strokes was getting old. Conditions like high blood pressure, out of balance cholesterol levels, and high levels of blood fats called triglycerides were seen as unfortunate, yet normal, parts of the aging process. The following closely connected health conditions as primary causes or indicators of future heart attacks and strokes.
1. Body fat: New research reveals that an excess of visceral fat around your organs greatly increases your chances of heart disease. Interestingly, hip, thigh, and butt fat are more benign when it comes to your heart; a pot belly or wide waist is the real danger signal.
2. Cholesterol: Excessive amount of “bad” LDL cholesterol in your bloodstream provide the foundation for plaque to build up on artery walls. A shortage of “good” HDL cholesterol is equally problematic.
3. Triglycerides: These are type of fat cell found in your bloodstream. They have an important function, but an excess amount acts much like bad cholesterol.
4. Blood pressure: Compare a raging river to a gently flowing river. High blood pressure creates the former in your arteries; that makes dislodging a clot far more likely.
5. C-reactive protein: This is an immune-system chemical that is created in response to inflammation. An excess amount in your bloodstream appears to contribute to the creation of plaque.
6. Insulin resistance: Insulin signals each cell of your body to absorb fuel (in the form of blood sugar). When cells reject insulin, it builds up in the bloodstream, causing a chain reaction of unhealthy events for your arteries.
7. Homocysteine: This is an amino acid created when your body breaks down proteins in your diet. High levels in your bloodstream have proven to be a remarkably good predictor of future heart disease.
8. Cancer: If you live long enough, you will get cancer. It’s just how we are built. Cancer, for all the fear it invokes, is not some foreign thing that invades your body, like virus or bacteria. Cancer is simply your own cells run amok. It develops when the built-in mechanisms designed to destroy damaged cells fail or become overwhelmed by the extent of the damaged cells. Top ways that prevents cancer:
Stop smoking. Boring, redundant information you have heard a thousand times before. But consider this: if you smoke, you are 23 times more likely to develop lung cancer than someone who does not smoke. Compare that to a woman who had a first degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) diagnosed with breast cancer; her overall risk is only twice that of a woman with no first-degree relative diagnosed with breast cancer. Yet what women tend to worry most about? Breast cancer.
Cut back on the alcohol. Drinking beyond healthy levels (generally, one serving a day) is a major cause of breast, bladder, stomach, esophageal, liver, and colon cancers, among others. Scientists suspect the link may be due to the effects of acetaldehyde, a suspected carcinogen that forms as the body metabolizes alcohol. This compound reacts with natural compounds that are required for cell growth. This reaction can cause DNA damage to cells, which can, in turn, lead to malfunctioning cell division.
Lose weight. About one in three cancers are the result of poor diet and being overweight, particularly breast, colon, rectal, stomach, prostate, and pancreatic cancers. When you are overweight, your body produces more estrogen linked to breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers; and more insulin, which can increase inflammation and free-radical damage.
Eat right. In addition to getting seven to nine servings a day of fruits and vegetables, studies find that diets low in red meat and high in whole grains also result in lower levels of various cancers.
Get moving. Physical activity not only helps you maintain a healthy weight but also it reduces the percentage of body fat and helps your muscles better use insulin, reducing insulin in blood levels and free-radical production. Specific studies find that regular physical activity can slash the risk of bowel cancer by half, the risk of uterine cancer by a third, as well as significantly reduce the risk of ovarian, breast, and colon cancer.