Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States in both men and women. Per The Centers for Disease Control, heart disease kills over 600,000 people every year, and was responsible for 25% of all deaths in the United States in 2015.

Risk Factors
While there are genetic risk factors for heart disease, many of the conditions that increase your risk of heart attack are completely within your control. Being overweight, eating an unhealthy diet, not exercising, smoking and excess alcohol intake can severely impact your heart’s ability to carry you into old age.

Exercise to Prevent Heart Disease
Any exercise that elevates your pulse is a great way to strengthen your heart. If you’re just starting out on an exercise program, make sure you:

1) realize that you may not like exercise at the beginning, but commit to doing it at least 4-5 days per week, and be confident that as you remain consistent over time, it will become a joy
2) warm-up before your workout and stretch and cool down afterwards
3) find a workout buddy if you’re socially inclined, or listen to music or a book on tape if you prefer a solitary workout.
4) make it a habit – be consistent over weeks, months, and years

Commit to Good Nutrition
One of the greatest difficulties for many of us is that “convenient” food is generally unhealthy, and many people are under the misconception that healthy food takes a great deal of time to prepare. Grass-fed beef, chicken, and fish are typically quick to prepare, and can easily be paired with a salad or grilled or sautéed vegetables. This sort of a dinner takes no more than about 15 minutes to make – less time than it takes to drive to a fast food restaurant and pick up an unhealthy meal. There are many food delivery businesses that have healthy choices like “paleo”. If you snack, then a few nuts or a grass-fed beef stick can tide you over between meals without causing an insulin spike.

Dietary changes you can make without too much pain include getting rid of bread and cereals, substituting organic plain yogurt with fresh blueberries for unhealthy sweet desserts, and cutting down on deep-fried foods.

Drug counselors and many recovering addicts agree–cigarettes are one of the hardest addictions to kick. Whether you have been a lifelong smoker or only smoke occasionally, making the decision to put down this highly addictive product takes tremendous courage. If you’ve quit before and relapsed, good for you. Quitting take practice.

Tailoring Your Path To Great Health
Women: While some forms of HRT are not recommended for women because of the risk of heart complications, properly applied hormonal treatments, specific to your body chemistry, can do wonders for your heart health and your energy level in general. In addition, the hormonal changes that come about as we age include more than just loss of estrogen and progesterone. For an optimal program of hormone treatment, you need an in-depth study of your hormonal changes along with proper optimization.

Men: With all of the press and attention given to women’s menopause, it’s important to note that men experience symptoms of hormone loss as well. This lull in hormonal production can lead to a loss of muscle mass, loss of skin tone, decline in libido, and a general run-down feeling, along with an increase in risk of heart disease.

Final Thoughts
Our aging bodies require special attention to stay healthy and strong for as long as possible. While diet, exercise and stress management can greatly reduce your risk for heart disease, getting these factors right can be terribly confusing to someone who’s just starting an exercise program. Make an appointment for a full body work-up to review your endocrine levels and make sure your hormones are in balance as they change while you age.