How To Beat Heart Disease And More

How to beat heart disease and more.

Heart Disease, Diabetes and High Blood Pressure are common for people over 40. Through some proper, committed lifestyle adjustments, you can feel reborn again. 

Reference Disclaimer: Not Medical Advice

Turning 40 is often seen as a significant milestone, a juncture that can be as rewarding as it is revealing. 

I wrote about turning 40 in a previous article you can read here.

For many of us, this age signifies a period of introspection and achievement, where the fruits of labor, wisdom accumulated from past experiences, and a clearer sense of identity come together. This can mean a deeply fulfilling chapter of life, but also a reaping of our past lifestyle choices and genetic predispositions come due.

The body may begin to manifest the wear and tear of past habits, such as the cumulative effects of diet, exercise, stress management, and sleep patterns. 

Those who have maintained a balanced lifestyle might observe their investments paying off in terms of greater energy, sharper mental acuity, and a more vigorous health profile.

In contrast, the adverse effects of less healthy decisions might become more apparent, presenting challenges that require attention and adjustment.

Life, for most, suddenly becomes a dynamic interplay of choices and consequences. 

Here Are The 3 Most Common Health Problems For Most Over 40

As we enter our 40s, our bodies undergo various changes. 

Metabolism slows down, making it easier to gain weight. Muscle mass naturally decreases, a condition known as sarcopenia. Women may begin to experience pre-menopausal symptoms, while men might notice a gradual decline in testosterone levels, impacting everything from energy levels to muscle strength.

However, the 3 most common health concerns for those of us over 40 are heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension.

Heart Disease

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the leading cause of death in the United States, with coronary heart disease (CHD) being the primary contributor. 

In 2020, CHD was responsible for 41.2% of deaths attributable to cardiovascular conditions. The overall direct and indirect costs of cardiovascular diseases and stroke in the U.S. were estimated at $407.3 billion between 2018 and 2019.

Factors contributing to this include the buildup of plaques in the arteries, increased blood pressure, and changes in heart function. Both men and women at this age might start noticing symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain, or other cardiovascular problems. 

The risk is increased by poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, and unmanaged stress.

Diabetes

In 2020, approximately 34.2 million Americans, or about 10.5% of the population, had diabetes.

This, particularly type 2, is another major concern. It often develops as a result of excess body weight and insufficient physical activity—conditions that are increasingly common in our 4th decade of life. 

The body’s ability to manage insulin effectively diminishes, leading to elevated blood sugar levels that can cause a variety of health issues over time, including nerve damage, kidney problems, and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

Nearly half of the adults in the United States suffer from high blood pressure, with many unaware they do. It’s a major risk factor for both heart disease and stroke, contributing to a substantial number of deaths annually. 

It’s a significant global health issue affecting approximately 1.28 billion adults aged 30–79 worldwide, with the majority residing in low- and middle-income countries. A startling 46% of adults with hypertension are unaware of their condition, and less than half are diagnosed and treated. 

Only about 21% of those with hypertension have their condition under control.

Heart Disease And The Long Term Effects

The effects of heart disease untreated.

This encompasses a range of conditions affecting the heart and can lead to several serious complications if not managed properly. Here are some potential outcomes and complications associated with heart disease.

1. Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction): This occurs when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked for a long enough time that part of the heart muscle is damaged or dies. It’s often caused by a blockage in one or more of the coronary arteries due to plaque (a mix of fat, cholesterol, and other substances).

2. Heart Failure: This condition means that the heart isn’t pumping blood as well as it should be. Heart failure can result from damaged or weakened heart muscle and can involve the left, right, or both sides of the heart.

3. Arrhythmia: This is an irregular heartbeat. The heart may beat too fast, too slow, or an erratic mix. This can affect how well the heart works and how much blood it can pump to the rest of the body.

4. Stroke: This can happen when a blood vessel in the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. People with heart conditions, particularly those with heart arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation, are at increased risk of stroke.

5. Aneurysm: An aneurysm is a bulge in the wall of an artery. If this bursts, it can lead to life-threatening bleeding. Heart disease can lead to weakening of the artery walls, contributing to aneurysm formation.

6. Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD): This condition occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the arms, legs, and pelvis become narrowed, usually due to atherosclerosis. This can cause numbness, pain, and sometimes dangerous infections.

7. Sudden Cardiac Arrest: This is the abrupt loss of heart function, breathing, and consciousness, typically resulting from an electrical disturbance in your heart that disrupts its pumping action, stopping blood flow to your body.

8. Chronic Kidney Disease: Heart and kidney functions are closely linked. Poor heart function can affect the kidneys’ ability to filter blood, leading to accumulated waste products in the body.

Diabetes And The Long Term Effects

The long term effects of diabetes unchecked.

Here are some potential outcomes and complications associated with diabetes.

1. Cardiovascular Disease: Diabetes significantly increases the risk of various cardiovascular problems, including coronary artery disease with chest pain (angina), heart attack, stroke, and narrowing of arteries (atherosclerosis).

2. Nerve Damage (Neuropathy): Excess sugar can injure the walls of the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) that nourish your nerves, especially in the legs. This can cause tingling, numbness, burning, or pain that usually begins at the tips of the toes or fingers and gradually spreads upward.

3. Kidney Damage (Nephropathy): Diabetes can damage the filtering system of the kidneys, leading to kidney failure or irreversible end-stage kidney disease, which may require dialysis or a kidney transplant.

4. Eye Damage: Damage to the blood vessels of the retina (diabetic retinopathy) can potentially lead to blindness. Diabetes also increases the risk of other serious vision conditions, such as cataracts and glaucoma.

5. Foot Damage: Nerve damage in the feet or poor blood flow to the feet increases the risk of various foot complications. Left untreated, cuts and blisters can develop serious infections, which often heal poorly. These infections may ultimately require toe, foot, or leg amputation.

I have a friend who suffered from this. His left leg from the knee down was severed. He spent nearly 2 years in the hospital recovering.

6. Skin Conditions: Diabetes may leave you more susceptible to skin problems, including bacterial and fungal infections.

7. Hearing Impairment: Hearing problems are more common in people with diabetes.

8. Alzheimer’s Disease: Type 2 diabetes may increase the risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. The poorer your blood sugar control, the greater the risk appears to be.

9. Depression: Depression rates are higher among people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes compared to the general population.

High Blood Pressure And The Long Term Effects

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can lead to a variety of serious health issues if not managed well. Over time, untreated or poorly controlled hypertension can cause the following.

1. Heart Disease and Heart Failure: The heart has to work harder to pump blood against the higher pressure in the vessels, which can lead to heart disease, including coronary artery disease, enlarged heart, and ultimately heart failure.

2. Stroke: High Blood Pressure can cause blood vessels in the brain to clog more easily or even burst, leading to stroke. The increased pressure can damage the blood vessels, leading to blockages or tears.

3. Kidney Damage: The kidneys filter blood and require good blood flow to work properly. Hypertension can damage the vessels in the kidneys, leading to kidney disease or kidney failure.

4. Vision Loss: High blood pressure can damage the delicate blood vessels in the eyes, leading to retinopathy, which can cause blurred vision or blindness.

5. Peripheral Artery Disease: This can lead to a narrowing of blood vessels in the legs, arms, stomach, and head, causing pain and fatigue, particularly during exercise.

6. Aneurysms: The constant pressure can cause blood vessels to bulge out, forming aneurysms. If an aneurysm bursts, it can lead to life-threatening internal bleeding.

7. Cognitive Changes: There can be cognitive changes, including memory loss and difficulty understanding concepts, which are often associated with the damage hypertension causes to the blood vessels in the brain.

If You Suffer From Any Of These, You’ll Have To Make A Choice

We all have choices to eventually make about our health.

Chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease can initially seem overwhelming. It can be even devastating when thinking about what may result from it in the future, but it doesn’t have to be.

 You have several choices.

Live as you have, or choose to make what changes you can for the better.

Doing nothing brings you to the probable end so many have suffered.

Many illnesses, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease can be managed, if not rid of completely. The process begins with understanding and acceptance. Accepting that your life may be at risk and acknowledging the long-term benefits of your decision.

However, the mind and accompanying feelings can be deeply problematic.

Fear, uncertainty, stubbornness, and any attachment to a lifestyle that may have been synonymous with relaxation, pleasure, and enjoyment, while slowly killing you, are serious blockades. 

This arguably may be the hardest part of dealing with diseases.

The actions themselves aren’t necessarily difficult per se, but thoughts and feelings turn them into nearly unbearable burdens.

Start By Letting Go

I wrote another article that addresses letting go. You can read it here.

“Letting Go” is simply about not fighting what you’re feeling, and then allowing it to pass through you. The methodology allows an acceptance of what is happening now, without giving up or being irresponsible. 

This allowance/acceptance creates an emotional release which in turn opens you up to the current moment and new possibilities. 

The practical effect is that more often than not, we all want a particularly defined outcome, no matter what it may be.

In reality, very seldom, if ever, do we precisely get what we want. Yet, we allow ourselves to be open to the best outcome for ourselves, which generally, is what happens.

One of my favorite examples is surfing or swimming in the ocean. 

The more you resist the movement or waves of the water, the more difficult it is to navigate. The result is exhaustion, which can have dire consequences. However, by NOT fighting the waves, flowing with the water, harmony is created. The result can be a thrilling ride and a much more pleasant experience.

Now, that’s not to say we remove any kind of thinking or rationality from the situation. 

Using the ocean example, if the water is rough and the waves are high, you don’t get in to begin with. That too is letting go, should your desire that day be to surf or swim. Another day with better conditions will eventually arrive.

If you have been diagnosed with a chronic illness, there is no need to emotionally fight it. It’s here. It’s happening. You can find freedom from emotions and thoughts interfering with making the right decision for you. 

Here is a way to begin, and something you may want to do alone.

1. Start by admitting to yourself what you’re feeling. It may be fear, anger, guilt, regret, all of the above, or something else altogether.

Good. Let whatever it is be here. Really feel it. 

It’s ok to cry, scream into a pillow, whatever works for you.

2. Then, as best you can, ask yourself if you can let those feelings go. Can you release them, if only just for now?

I suggest you only ASK YOURSELF IF YOU CAN. By giving yourself a question, it addresses only the ability, never forcing anything. 

Whether you answer “yes” or “no”, it doesn’t matter, but you MUST BE HONEST with yourself. If you reply to the question with “no”, totally fine. You’ll be surprised how much looser those feelings and emotions become regardless.

At this point, you should feel some relief. If the feelings and emotions come back a moment later, that’s ok too.

3. Repeat this process, allowing those feelings and emotions to be in the moment, should they return. Keep feeling it as it is, asking yourself if you can let them go. Remember, only ask.

Commanding any feelings to leave usually has the opposite effect. 

4. Do this as often as you need or remember to. 

This is where you’ll be emotionally free, giving you a clearer mind to make better personal decisions about what to do next. 

Decisions Worth Considering

That being said, a lot can be done with consistent lifestyle changes.

Medications can definitely help, but not entirely. 

For heart disease, statins, beta-blockers, and anticoagulants can significantly reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes by managing cholesterol levels, lowering blood pressure, and preventing blood clots. 

In the case of diabetes, medication helps to control blood sugar levels, which can prevent severe complications like kidney damage, vision loss, and nerve problems. 

For hypertension, antihypertensive drugs like ACE inhibitors, diuretics, and calcium channel blockers are known to reduce blood pressure, which decreases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. 

However, while medications are effective in managing these conditions, changes to how we live are often necessary to get the best results.

Below you’ll find some options worth considering, and as always, make sure to consult with your doctor/physician before embarking on any changes.

Handling Heart Disease

Heart Disease can be managed to where life is new again.

According to this WebMD article, for the most part, Heart Disease can be essentially reversed.  Below are a few considerations to improve your life.

Change Your Diet

Eat heart-healthy foods. Focus on a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and flaxseeds, are beneficial for heart health.

Reduce saturated fats and trans fats. Limit intake of butter, cheese, and fried or processed foods. 

Decrease your salt intake as well. High sodium levels can contribute to high blood pressure, so it’s advisable to limit salt consumption.

Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates, as these can contribute to weight gain and negatively impact heart health.

Regular Physical Activity

Regular exercise, such as brisk walking, swimming, or cycling is great for your heart.

Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week.

Be sure to include some kind of muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days per week.

Maintain A Healthy Weight

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for heart health. Excess weight can lead to conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes, which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Quit Smoking And Lesson Alcohol Intake

Smoking has been linked as a major risk factor for heart disease. Quitting smoking can dramatically decrease the risk. At the same time, moderate alcohol consumption reduces the likelihood of increased blood pressure and heart failure.

Reduce Stress

Chronic stress has been tied to heart disease. Techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, or yoga can help manage it more effectively.

Dealing With Diabetes

Diabetes doesn't have to ruin your life.

According to this Healthline article, diabetes type 2 can be reversed. Type 1, however, is currently less clear, but promising. This article from Healthline goes into detail here.

Regardless, there are things that can be done to improve your quality of life. 

Adopt A Healthy Diet

Reduce sugar and refined carbs. Focus on cutting out sugary drinks, snacks, and refined carbohydrate-rich foods.

Try to shift your diet into one rich with vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Limit processed foods and high-fat animal products as much as possible. 

Increase Physical Activity

Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, like walking or swimming, per week. Be sure to include strength training exercises 2 days or more a week to increase muscle mass. 

This helps in managing blood sugar.

Achieve And Maintain A Healthy Weight

Losing 5-10% of your body weight can significantly impact blood sugar control if you are overweight or obese.

However, this is something that will usually happen naturally when you eat better and are more physically active. 

Relax 

High-stress levels can affect blood sugar levels. Take a break, do something quiet and calming, like sitting outside, meditating, watching a movie, reading, etc.

Quit Smoking And Limit Alcohol

Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can worsen diabetes complications. 

If you’re a social drinker like I was, a great way to reduce alcohol is to switch from your usual drink to one you do not like nearly as much. For example, if you are a beer drinker, converting to whiskey or another spirit tends to reduce consumption, and encourages sipping.

Of course, if you can, it’s better to eliminate regular alcohol as much as possible, reserving a good drink for special occasions, if at all. 

Frankly, I ended up no longer attending the social events where I previously drank. I found those environments triggered my drinking habits. Rather than fight the urge, I removed myself from it.

Managing High Blood Pressure

Lifestyle changes can positively affect hypertension.

In another article by Healthline, experts suggest that Hypertension, or High Blood Pressure, is always an issue, some more than for others. It’s generally tied to how we choose to live.

Once Again, Have A Healthier Diet

Aim to limit sodium in your diet as it can raise blood pressure.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day and moving toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults.

There’s an interesting diet acronym that goes by DASH.  It stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.

It’s also been advised to limit alcohol and even caffeine, as both substances have been known to increase blood pressure. As with anything else, moderation is key.

Move That Body

At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, like biking, are recommended each week. 

As also mentioned above, strength training at least 2 days a week. 

Maintain A Healthy Weight 

Even losing a small amount of weight if you’re overweight or obese can help reduce your blood pressure.

Generally, you may reduce your blood pressure by about 1 mm Hg with each kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) of weight you lose.

Keep Stress Low

As previously stated, relax as much as possible. Conscious techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help reduce stress and lower blood pressure. 

If You Smoke, Quit

Smoking and tobacco use can increase your blood pressure, so do what you can to quit. 

Small Changes, Big Results

Making small adjustments can lead to huge results.

Living with a chronic illness such as heart disease, diabetes, or hypertension can often feel like navigating a perpetual storm. 

You might experience days that are overshadowed by discomfort or anxiety about your health. However, it’s important to remember that you often have more control over the quality of your life than you might think.

For those of us over 40, the realization that our lifestyle choices can significantly influence our well-being is awesome and should be encouraging. 

You don’t have to do it all at once.

Small, consistent changes in daily habits can lead to amazing long-term improvements in how we feel and function.

Eating less carbohydrates, drinking more water instead of soda, getting out, and moving around a little may seem minor. However, if done persistently, gradually improving, over a long enough time, can result in a whole new and improved you.

The journey to better health is not about making monumental changes overnight, but rather about making more mindful decisions each day. 

Every healthy choice is a victory in its own right. 

Until the next time, cheers.

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