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As time flashes by and your body begins to cry out for some much-needed care, it’s important to pay attention to certain signs, especially the ones that could be related to heart disease. From modifiable risk factors like a healthy diet or regular exercise to the non-modifiable kind— age, gender, or family history— there are many ways of anticipating and even preventing heart disease from crippling your life. Read on to check if you’re experiencing any of the following signs, and if so, how to fight them.

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Heart Disease

If you’ve ever experienced shortness of breath, a racing heart, unusual fatigue, and dizziness, you may be at risk of heart disease. There are a number of coronary diseases—including heart attacks, atrial fibrillation (AFib), and arrhythmia— that could be related to those symptoms. The most important thing to do when any of these signs occurs is to get informed about prevention and acknowledge the fact that your heart is giving you a warning and it needs help.

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How Heart Disease Affects Your Life

Whether heart disease runs in your family or you’ve just been diagnosed, suffering from this condition will affect your life dramatically. All of a sudden you need to pay close attention to your diet, become physically active, and avoid any and all forms of stress, which is inherently difficult in today’s world. There are three heart disease risk factors that are non-modifiable: gender, age, and family history. Luckily, by making small changes, the chances of suffering heart disease are far less.

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Your Gender

Gender is one of several non-modifiable risk factors of heart disease. Males are more vulnerable to suffering from a heart condition, so they have to be even more careful about their lifestyle and be informed about the different treatments available in order to live a healthy and happy life. However, women are also at risk after they hit 45.

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Your Age

Studies released by the American Heart Association revealed that almost 90% of heart attacks take place around the age of 65. This proves that, as you grow older, the chances of suffering from cardiac disease also get higher. However, a healthy lifestyle during your more active years certainly contributes to living better as an adult.

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Family History of Heart Disease

Family history is another non-modifiable heart disease risk factor. This basically means that if anyone else related to you has ever suffered from cardiac disease, there’s a chance you could go through the same thing, as you’re genetically predisposed to it. But no need to panic or get overly concerned! You may not be able to change your genes, but showing your family’s medical history to your doctor will help provide more specific treatment and ultimately minimize the risk.

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Being Post-Menopausal

As women finish the process of menopause, where the menstruation cycle stops completely, a very common event is the loss of estrogen, which increases the risk of heart disease. While it has been suggested that ladies in their 50s should take estrogen as an early prevention measure, the American Heart Association advises against it, as estrogen isn’t a proven “cure.” However, at least 150 minutes of weekly exercise can help minimize the risk.

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Smoking

Smoking is one of the most well-known modifiable risk factors of heart disease. It’s one of the worst habits, and it carries the highest risk of a fatality during a cardiac event. Smoking affects breathing, and studies claim that it can reduce your lifespan by up to 13 years if you’re a man and 14 years if you’re a woman. The risk is even higher for second-hand smokers (those who don’t smoke but breathe the same air as smokers).

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Smoking is Linked to Other Afflictions

This deadly bad habit not only causes heart disease but also throat, lip, or lung cancer. Smoking may feel like a quick fix for people who suffer from anxiety, but in the long run, the risks aren’t worth the temporary remedy. Smoking harms almost every organ in the body and causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States alone. Not quitting this incredibly hurtful habit increases your risk for stroke by two to four times.

Smoking also puts second-hand smokers at risk for asthma, as tobacco smoke can trigger an attack. If you’re currently a smoker and you want to quit, find the closest rehabilitation center and start living a better life today.

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High LDL or “Bad” Cholesterol

Another warning sign for heart disease is having high LDL levels. LDL stands for Low Density Lipoprotein, a type of cholesterol. This “bad” cholesterol is the one that forms the artery blockages, and it should be kept at a level of 70 mg/dL or lower in order to prevent cardiac arrest. If your level of LDL is currently higher, please check with your doctor immediately.

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Low HDL or “Good” Cholesterol

HDL, or High Density Lipoprotein, is reverse-transport cholesterol that travels from the heart to the liver and is later expelled from the body. While a normal level is about 60 mg/dL, the risk of heart disease is higher when HDL is lower than that. As you can imagine, yearly check-ups should be an important part of your life, as they may prevent the development of many illnesses and conditions before it’s too late.

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Uncontrolled Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

Blood pressure is measured with two figures; the lower one indicates diastolic BP, while the higher one shows systolic BP. Considering that the fairly average 140/90 is already stage 1 of HBP, you should always make sure that your blood pressure is below these figures. Males under 45 have higher chances of having high blood pressure than women. After the 64-year mark, the chances even out. Either way, it’s always important to keep your BP controlled.

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Physical Inactivity

People who choose not to engage in any kind of physical activity are at a higher risk of getting heart disease than those who frequently do. If your go-to excuse is that you simply don’t like to exercise, we have news for you! There’s no need for a long, boring daily gym routine. All your heart needs is 10 minutes three times a day or any activity that gets your heart pumping.

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Leading a Healthy Life

Choosing to change your lifestyle may not be a cure for heart disease, but it definitely improves your quality of life overall. Help fight the signs of heart disease with just 30 minutes of daily exercise. It’s very important to engage into aerobic activities that cover large muscle groups— anything from brisk walking to cycling, swimming, jumping rope, or just jogging will mean the world to your heart’s well-being. And the rest of your body will definitely appreciate it, too.

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Obesity

Medical studies have shown that more than one in every three people in the US alone are obese. Excess body fat is one of the main causes of premature heart disease, and it’s directly related to the previously mentioned risk factors, such as lack of exercise. Sitting in front of a computer for hours at a time contributes to the accumulation of unnecessary fat, which is so heavy it puts a serious strain on the heart, causing heart disease. A change of habits and a more active lifestyle will help you reduce body fat and stimulate oxygen production.

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Obesity’s Other Unwanted Complications

Those who suffer from obesity also struggle with hypertension, arthritis, and ultimately diabetes. With time, untreated obesity intertwined with diabetes may also bring even worse complications, such as the development of different types of cancer as a result of the strain you’re putting your whole body through in order to keep functioning appropriately. In these cases, treatment based on strict diet and exercise could be a life-saver.

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Uncontrolled Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease that can result in serious complications, especially for people with heart disease. It can affect your entire body, from your eyes to your gums and teeth and even limbs. However, making the effort to control it will help minimize the pain. As long as the disease is left loose to attack one organ at a time, the risks of getting heart disease are higher. The key is taking control over it with treatment and regular medical exams.

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The Importance of a 

Most people don’t understand how serious diabetes is until they’re diagnosed with it. For this reason, it’s very important to take yearly diabetes tests, such as the FPG (Fasting Plasma Glucose) test. This is one of the cheapest tests available, and it’s very easy to do. It’s also strongly recommended by the American Diabetes Association. The sooner diabetes is detected, the easier it is for you to fight against its symptoms through systematic treatment.

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What You Should Be Doing to Prevent Diabetes

Start with a diet based on carbohydrates that break down slowly in the body; nuts, fresh vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains are your new best friends. Ask a dietitian to create a specific diet tailored to your needs, as no one diet is a “one size fits all” remedy. On that note, replace salt with herbs to season your meals. Getting enough sleep is also paramount to keeping your blood sugar levels on point. Exercise more, and while you’re at it, have fun with it! Don’t go to the gym if you hate it. Find a workout or exercise routine that makes you feel like you’re not working out at all.  And last but not least, lose that nasty habit that keeps your lungs from breathing freely— stop smoking!

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Uncontrolled Stress and Anger

Stress is a modern disease that knows no age, sex, religion, or ethnicity, and it can be quite lethal for those who are at risk of suffering from heart disease. Keeping it under control is all about developing a lifestyle that keeps away from fear and anxiety and focuses on peace. Activities such as writing, finding a peaceful hobby, or even talking about your problems are all stress-relievers that contribute to relaxing your mind and balancing your body. A strong mind is what your heart needs.

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Poor Diet

Eating habits aren’t easy to change when you’re used to ingesting massive amounts of, well, basically anything. A poor diet contributes to elevating your blood pressure, giving you a higher chance of suffering diabetes. For this reason, it’s just as hazardous to your health as smoking or not exercising. Your heart needs nutrients, and a poor diet high in fat and cholesterol will only make it worse.

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What a Good Diet Should Look Like

Read carefully, but only if you’re ready to contribute to your body’s health. This is what a good diet should include: legumes, nuts, beans, grains, vegetables, fruits, lean meats, low-cholesterol meals, and healthy fats. Believe it or not, you can still eat what you like, but specialists recommend moderation. Add fish (specifically tuna or salmon), poultry, and other meat to your meals. And keep the salt and sugar at an all-time low. Massive amounts of either hurt your body in the short and long run.