About half the deaths from heart and vascular disease in the U.S. could be prevented, says a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine. All it takes is eliminating five preventable risk factors linked to the disease. But that’s easier said than done.
“We can tell people they have risks, but on an individual basis people have to decide whether they are willing to change those risks,” says David Frid, MD, a specialist in preventive cardiology at Cleveland Clinic.
Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Over 600,000 people die from it each year – one in four deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While healthcare providers have made great improvements in treating (and saving) people having a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular event, more needs to be done to prevent these conditions.
“In prevention, we probably haven’t done as well as we should,” says Dr. Frid. “We have a ways to go.”
More aggressive state policies and programs may help motivate people to live heart-healthier. Since the 1960s we’ve seen the positive effects of tobacco regulation, healthier school lunches and trans-fat awareness. But ultimately, making heart-healthy choices is still up to each individual.
Here are heart disease’s top five preventable risk factors and the steps you can take to offset them:
Eliminating any one of these risk factors can potentially stop you from getting heart disease. And eliminating one sometimes helps eliminate others.
You don’t have to do it alone. See your doctor for help.