Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every 34 seconds one person dies from heart disease, and it is responsible for one in five deaths each year.
Heart disease is not only about high blood pressure or cholesterol — although those are two of the main risk factors impacting your heart health. It is often the result of other existing health conditions. So, if you have one or more of the following conditions, getting them under control is important to protect your heart health.
Gum disease. Your oral health may play a role in your heart health, according to the American Heart Association. One of the biggest problems associated with gum disease is bad mouth bacteria entering your bloodstream. They can settle into the lining of your heart, a heart valve, or blood vessels, causing a heart infection known as infective endocarditis (IE).
IE is an uncommon infection, but you might be more at risk if you have heart valve disease, previous valve surgery, congenital heart disease, or previous or ongoing IE.
People with severe gum disease, known as periodontitis, also have a higher risk of high blood pressure compared to those with healthy gums.
Steps to take: To protect your heart health, the AHA recommends practicing good oral hygiene and getting regular dental care. If you have periodontitis, getting it under control may help prevent high blood pressure. And if you meet specific criteria, your heart doctor may also prescribe antibiotics to take before dental procedures.
Gut problems. The main signs of an unhealthy gut include bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why, but according to a study published in The Lancet, changes to your gut microbiome — the beneficial bacteria and microorganisms that live in your gut — may play a role in coronary artery disease and heart failure.
Steps to take: To improve your gut health, add more fiber and fermented food to your diet. These dietary changes will help protect your gut microbiome by feeding and increasing beneficial bacteria and microorganisms.
Good sources of fiber include legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, vegetables, and fruit, while fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and kombucha also promote a healthy gut.
Diabetes. The American Diabetes Association states that people with diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease than those without the condition. In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of death in people who have diabetes. It accounts for two-thirds of deaths among people with type 2 diabetes, the most common type.
Steps to take: If you have diabetes, it’s crucial to get it under control. But what if you don’t know you have it? The ADA says up to 7 million Americans with diabetes are unaware they have it.
As a first step, take the ADA’s online risk test. Afterward, follow up with your doctor to discuss your risk factor for developing diabetes. You may have to take blood tests to determine if you have diabetes or prediabetes.
If you have prediabetes or are at risk for type 2 diabetes, consider participating in the National Diabetes Prevention Program. This structured lifestyle-change program is available online or in person and helps prevent type 2 diabetes.
Insomnia. Insomnia — trouble falling asleep or staying asleep — is a medical condition. Sleep is vital to your overall health.
Half of all Americans have insomnia at some point in their lives. And 1 in 10 develop chronic or long-term insomnia. According to the CDC, adults who sleep less than seven hours each night can develop health problems that put them at risk for heart disease. Sleep-related issues include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
Steps to take: The CDC recommends that adults get at least seven hours of sleep every night for overall health and well-being. Talk to your doctor about what lifestyle changes you should make to help you sleep better. They may also want to screen you for sleep apnea, another serious sleep disorder.