Today we’re going to discuss heart disease signs and dive into four simple things you can do to understand your heart disease risk that your doctor is not telling you!
Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is the communication from your brain to your heart. It’s a basic test that can be done to understand the tone of the nervous system. HRV allows you to understand which activities in your daily life may be hitting the accelerator, and which hit the brakes.
Accelerator: Body gets stressed out and worked up
- Poor sleep
Brakes: Slow your body down, allowing it to relax, recover and heal
- Stress Management
If the body’s fight or flight response is constantly on overdrive – it can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.1 Conversely, if your brakes are strong enough, it significantly lowers your risk for heart attack and heart failure.
Body Mass Index (BMI) indicates the amount of body fat based on height, weight, and age. Studies out of Denmark have shown that over 50% of cases of heart disease are directly correlated to a high BMI (i.e. overweight or obese category)2
Limitations: BMI calculations may overestimate body fat in athletes (people with high muscle build) and may underestimate body fat in the elderly (people with low muscle build).
Knowing your cholesterol numbers are imperative to understanding heart health.
- HDL– How much do you have? If 1/4 of your cholesterol is HDL, you’re good!
- Triglycerides– If you have 2x as many HDL asthan you do triglycerides, you’re good! If less, even better because there is not too much fat for the HDL to clean up.
- LDL Particle Size– The more small LDL you have, the more dangerous they are. An NMR test is rarely done by doctors and will show the particle size.
High cholesterol levels can often result in worsened blood flow due to blockages and fat buildup in the blood vessels, making for increased risk factors for coronary artery disease and other heart problems since the heart muscle needs to work harder to pump blood.
4. Blood Pressure
Too often, we’re going into the doctor’s office (perhaps nervous) and have our blood pressure checked (once) and we get to put on a high blood pressure drug for life even if we don’t necessarily have a medical condition and if we live healthy lifestyles! Here are a few tips to keep in mind when measuring blood pressure:
- Keep your arm level when you measure it.
- Measure on the same side each time. The right arm is recommended.
- Check it more than once, at the same time each day – for 2 weeks.
- Be aware of your state, and if you’ve dealt with stress before measuring it.
To summarize – you have HRV, which is controlling the electricity of your heart, you have BMI, that if it’s high, it’s directly correlated with increased risk of heart disease, you have to make sense of your cholesterol numbers, and finally, you need to take charge of your blood pressure and really understand if you have a problem.
So, look out for these common signs, and consider making some positive lifestyle changes like adding in a whole food diet and more physical activity, especially if you have a family history of heart conditions.
Additionally, if you’re not doing so well with your heart health, always be on the lookout for warning signs of cardiac arrest, including chest pain (angina), shortness of breath, and lightheadedness.