What’s the leading cause of death for men in the United States?
According to the Center for Disease Control, it’s heart disease.
Roughly 1 in 4 men died of heart disease in 2017. (1)
That’s nothing to take lightly.
Men and heart disease are mostly linked by a set of lifestyle factors, like:
When it comes down to it, the ball is in your court to protect the heart.
Here’s a closer look and the connection between men and heart disease:
What Is Heart Disease?
Heart disease is a broad term that includes:
- Coronary artery disease
- Heart failure
- Heart-related infections
- Birth defects
- Other irregularities
What’s shocking is that it’s possible to develop a serious disorder without showing any signs.
However, most of the time, there are some symptoms.
Ultimately, it’s important to know these signs so that you can start making changes early.
Risk Factors of Heart Disease and Men
Men are at a higher risk of developing heart disease than women.
A lot of the reason has to do with lifestyle factors.
For example, the American Heart Association found that only a quarter of men got enough physical activity in 2013. (2)
At the same time, they estimated that 72.9 percent of men were overweight or obese.
To make matters worse, 20 percent of men smoke, and smoking is one of the worst habits for heart health.
Smoking causes the blood vessels to narrow, a precursor to heart disease.
Common risk factors of heart disease and men include:
- Alcohol abuse
- Eating a lot of saturated fat
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly half of all Americans have at least three of these risk factors. (3)
However, just because you don’t have any obvious risk factors doesn’t mean you’re in the clear…
50 percent of men who die from heart disease don’t show any warning signs!
If you want to protect yourself from a heart attack, you’ll have to quickly recognize the warning signs and receive treatment.
Common Signs of Heart Disease in Men
Unfortunately, the first sign of heart disease is often a serious event like a heart attack.
However, there can be several other less serious signs as well.
In the early stages, symptoms may come and go.
For example, heart arrhythmias can cause:
- Chest tightness that lasts for 30 minutes or more
- Difficulty breathing after moderate exercise
- Rapid heartbeat
- Slow heartbeat
- Pain in the torso, neck or jaw
Similarly, heart disease that involves blood vessel constriction can present as:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain (angina)
- Extreme fatigue
- Tingling or numbness in the arms and legs
- Irregular heartbeat
Ultimately, these may be signs that your blood vessels are clogged.
This is typically due to plaque buildup that makes it difficult for the heart to pump.
As a result, the body struggles to circulate oxygen throughout the body.
However, if an infection is the source of the problem, symptoms can include dry cough, skin rashes, and fever.
How to Prevent Heart Disease in Men
In most cases, heart disease and men are strongly linked to lifestyle factors.
Here’s how men can reduce the risk of heart disease:
A healthy eating plan is the most important step toward preventing heart disease.
The food you eat can either clog your arteries or keep the pipes clear.
Diet also contributes to high blood pressure, diabetes, and a number of other risk factors.
The Truth About Fats
There is a lot of research out there that demonizes fats, but that isn’t the whole picture…
The truth is not all fats are evil.
Saturated fat like coconut oil, olive oil, and fat from wild-caught fish and grass-fed beef is A-okay.
However, your arteries can run into trouble when unhealthy trans fats mix with carbs and sugar.
Together, they can wreak havoc on your cardiovascular system.
Here’s a list of fats to avoid:
These oils are inflammatory and can damage the arteries.
Good Meat and Bad Meat
Similarly, there is also both good and bad meat.
Grain-fed beef, for example, is pro-inflammatory and should be avoided.
At the same time, conventional beef tends to be loaded with growth hormones and antibiotics, both of which are terrible for heart health.
However, grass-fed beef contains healthy fats.
When it comes to meat, the source matters.
Wild-caught fish contains omega-3 fatty acids and are amazing for heart health.
Salmon and sardines, for example, are especially high in these heart-healthy nutrients.
Leafy Green Vegetables
Leafy greens like kale, collard greens, and spinach are loaded with vitamins and minerals that benefit the heart.
In particular, they’re loaded with vitamin K to support proper blood clotting.
Leafy greens are also high in nitrates.
Nitrates have been shown to decrease arterial stiffness, reduce blood pressure, and strengthen the blood vessels. (4)
In fact, some studies have found a direct link between leafy greens and a reduced risk of heart disease…
For example, a meta-analysis of eight studies found that a diet high in leafy greens can reduce the risk of heart disease by 16 percent. (5)
As a precautionary measure, it’s also important to have your blood sugar checked every year.
The more sugar you eat, the more likely you are to develop insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Start testing yourself by age 45 at the latest.
However, if you’re overweight or obese, you should start getting checked even sooner.
Alcohol increases your risk of many health problems, including obesity, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.
It’s pro-inflammatory, damages the blood vessel walls, and is not part of a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Stay physically active!
Exercise is just as important as diet in the fight for a healthier heart.
The good news is, you don’t have to become a gym rat in order to have a strong heart.
According to the American Heart Association, all it takes is 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise a week. (6)
What qualifies as “moderate-intensity?”
- Brisk walking
However, if you crank up the intensity, you can get by with even less.
All you need is 1 hour and 15 minutes a week of high-intensity physical activity like running or jogging.
If you want to really go above and beyond, you can add some form of weight lifting two days a week.
However, aerobic activity is what’s most important for that heart.
Keep in mind that your metabolism slows down at age 40.
Ideally, you’ll want to establish a heart-healthy exercise plan before then.
However, if you’re already older, don’t worry, it’s never too late to find a workout routine you enjoy!
Sleep is the time that the body rests, restores, and rebuilds.
Without proper sleep, the heart and blood vessels don’t have an opportunity to repair damaged cells.
Plus, elevated stress hormones are bad news for heart health.
Fortunately, quality sleep can balance your hormones, reduce stress, and protect the heart.
Here are a few tips for getting a better night’s sleep:
- Go to bed at the same time every night
- Get at least 7-9 hours of sleep
- Eat your last meal/snack two hours before bed
- Avoid using electronic devices an hour before bedtime
The screens on phones and computers emit blue light that stimulates cortisol production.
Ultimately, this can prevent the body from producing melatonin when it’s time for bed.
As a result, you can end up with shallow, non-restorative sleep.
Snoring is another issue that you shouldn’t ignore.
At least one in five adults have sleep apnea, a condition that disrupts breathing while you sleep.
It can contribute to heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.
Are you spread too thin between work, errands, and family life?
The fact of the matter is, if you don’t get your stress under control, your heart will pay the price.
Chronic stress boosts heart rate and blood pressure.
Over time, this can damage artery walls and increase the risk of a heart attack.
Learning stress management techniques like meditation and deep breathing can support heart health and improve your quality of life.
Unfortunately, developing a habit of meditation can be difficult.
As it turns out, most people never turn it into a routine.
Luckily, meditation apps like Waking Up by Sam Harriss make it easy.
Giving back by volunteering can also reduce stress.
On a similar note, try to spend more care-free time with your family.
After all, humans are pack animals, and too much time away from loved ones is bad for the heart.
Consult with a Doctor (Regularly)
Find a doctor that you can team up within the long run.
This is especially important if you’re approaching the age of 40.
Believe it or not, healthy men need doctors too!
Even if you’re in great shape, it’s still a good idea to get regular heart-health screenings.
Talk to your doctor about exercise, diet, and lifestyle.
At the same time, get your blood sugar, heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, and body mass index checked.
Learn about the warnings of a heart attack and keep on the lookout!
Remember, sometimes heart attacks happen for the first time with only the slightest symptoms.
Not everyone experiences severe chest pain with a heart attack, and symptoms can vary dramatically depending on the cause.
If you have any more questions about men and heart disease, feel free to contact us at Complete Care Health Centers.
We’re happy to answer any questions you may have.