With all the improvements we’ve seen over the last few years in health care, whether through treatment or preventive medicine, heart disease remains the number one preventable cause of death in the western world. And according to Canadian researchers, whether you are talking about Montana or Malaysia, the same risk factors – smoking, high cholesterol, obesity and high blood pressure – cause 90% of all heart attacks.
In the past, it was believed that these particular risk factors could account for just about half of all heart attacks, but in a paper presented last year to the European Society of Cardiology by Dr. Salim Yusuf of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, nine in ten heart attacks might be prevented with proper control of these 4 risk factors.
The impressive sample presented in this study, which is one reason for its credibility, included 14,820 healthy subjects, and 15,152 people who had suffered first heart attacks. They included participants from Europe, Latin America, China, South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. In addition the broad spectrum of the study, two new approaches were used to measure the risk of heart attack. First: waist circumference, which is a direct gauge of abdominal fat, was used rather than Body Mass Index (BMI). Second, a simple blood test that measures the ratio of small and large cholesterol molecules was used in place of a standard blood cholesterol test. This provided an instant ratio between HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol). The results were quite intriguing. Persons with the highest risk ratio suffered a 54% increased risk of heart attack. Smoking increased the risk by 36%, but when combined with a poor cholesterol ratio, the two factors account for 66% of all heart attacks. And even a little puff here and there is dangerous. Five cigarettes per day increase your chance of heart attack by 40% compared to a non-smoker.
Rounding out the list of risk factors were diabetes, high blood pressure, sedentary life style and a diet that does not include generous portions of vegetables and fruits. On the positive side, a good diet, regular exercise and very moderate alcohol intake reduced you the risk of heart attack regardless of your ethnicity.
What we see from this is that the potential for real health benefits, without medication or surgery, exists. We health professionals may say it hundreds of times, but it works: Eat right, exercise, stay active and keep your stress under control. We all have relatives and close friends. It’s simply not fair to them for us to risk our lives with poor habits and uncontrolled desires for and harmful food and cigarettes, and sedentary lifestyles.
Bottom line: Our health is in our own hands. There is no better way than taking our health seriously and creating good health habit to “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”
Alan Freishtat is an A.C.E.* CERTIFIED PERSONAL TRAINER and a LIFESTYLE FITNESS COACH with over 14 years of professional experience. He is the co-director of the Jerusalem-based weight loss and stress reduction center Lose It! along with Linda Holtz M.Sc. and is available for private consultations, assessments and personalized workout programs. Alan also lectures and gives seminars and workshops. He can be reached at 02-651-8502 or 050-555-7175, or by email at [email protected] Check out the Lose It! web site – www.loseit.co.il. US Line: 516-568-5027.
* American Council on Exercise