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Everybody needs a healthy heart

GEHA | February 1, 2021

Everyday health Health and wellness Well-being Heart health
Tips to keep your ticker in tip-top shape.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

However, there are several steps you can take to keep your heart healthy. These include:

  • Eat healthy
  • Be active
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Refrain from smoking
  • Consume alcohol in moderation
  • Manage stress
  • Control your cholesterol and blood pressure

The most common form of heart disease occurs when the arteries that transport blood to the heart become narrow or blocked. This is caused when cholesterol and fatty material builds up inside the arteries. Narrow or blocked arteries are typically the result of:

  • Too much fat and cholesterol in the blood
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes, or too much sugar in the blood

Everyone is at risk for heart disease, but not following any of the above steps to maintain heart health puts a person at higher risk. Factors that increase risk include:

  • Being a woman older than 55
  • Being a man older than 45
  • Having a father or brother with heart disease before age 55
  • Having a mother or sister with heart disease before age 65

Sometimes a person will do all he or she is able to keep a healthy heart, and it still isn’t enough. When this is the case, a doctor may prescribe a statin. This is a prescription medication that lowers the amount of cholesterol in the blood by slowing down the liver’s production of cholesterol and increasing the liver’s ability to remove cholesterol already in the blood.

The body typically handles statins well. The most publicized risks are muscle-related complaints and an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The deputy director of the Division of Metabolism and Endocrinology at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported that muscle complaints are common among people not taking statins and that the risk of developing diabetes as a result of taking statins is small.

The benefits of taking statins to reduce the risk of heart attack and strokes generally outweighs any small increased risks. As always, talk with your doctor about any hesitancies or concerns you may have.

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