Last week new data was released that indicates about half of all Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease, representing more than 120 million of us. And while the number crept up in part because of new guidelines regarding blood pressure, it’s nevertheless a staggering number.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that about 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year – that’s 1 in every 4 deaths. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. While the media and our elected officials spend their time focused on manufactured or even downright false threats to Americans like caravans of Mexicans and Islamic terrorists, the true threat is staring us in the face and we’ve hardly noticed. For comparison’s sake, in 2016 the number of people in America who died due to terrorism was 68. Cardiovascular disease is the number one threat to the well being of all Americans regardless of political ideology.
Like many concerns, a solution begins with the admission that you have a problem. Well, Houston…and Minneapolis…and Charlotte…we have a problem.
The factors that were used to determine if you have cardiovascular disease includes both behavior and health measures. And not surprisingly, there are no surprises here. It is simple to find out if you are one of the 120 million Americans who have some form of cardiovascular disease. There’s even a handy dandy free checklist online here.
Here are the seven factors:
- High blood pressure. Anything 130/80 or above is bad. Seriously, it takes one minute at any drug store to find a kiosk and check your blood pressure.
- Cholesterol. Generally speaking, adults should have total cholesterol of less than 200. Your LDL (bad cholesterol) should be under 100 and your HDL (good cholesterol) should be 40 or higher for men and 50 or higher for women. Triglycerides should be less than 149.
- Blood sugar. A fasting blood sugar level less than 100 is normal.
- Be active. Sitting on the sofa is going to kill you. Get up and move. You don’t need to run a marathon, just move your ass at least 150 minutes per week at a moderate pace. That’s like 20 minutes a day of walking.
- Eat better. This one is also easier than you think. Lay off the carbs and added sugars and eat a well-balanced diet that consists of mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats. This is not rocket science people.
- Lose weight. If you do the above two things (eat better and be active) you don’t have to do anything more to reach this goal.
- Stop smoking. Vaping too. Knock it off.
So are you one of the 50 percent of Americans who have some form of cardiovascular disease? The answer is yes if you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, or if you smoke, eat like crap, don’t exercise, or carry around some extra weight. Frankly, it’s surprising to me that it’s not more than 50 percent of us.
All this is to say what I’ve said before on this blog — heart disease is 80 percent preventable so dying from heart disease is essentially optional. It’s time to pay attention to your risks and do something about them. There’s no excuse anymore for not knowing your risks. If you are a functioning adult you should be able to rattle off your blood pressure numbers, and your cholesterol and blood sugar levels. If you don’t know your numbers, see your doctor right away and find out. Your life literally depends on it.