It can affect any one at any time. “It’s something that every American should be concerned about. This is really a disease that starts early and develops over many years and usually manifests with significant symptoms and sometimes it even manifests with an early heart attack,” said Dr. Salvatore Lacagnina, an internal medicine physician with Lee Health.
And while many American’s don’t start worrying about heart disease until they’re older, studies show it can actually start to take effect when we’re younger. “It’s really interesting that a lot of the service men and women that died in early wars were found to have early hardening of the arteries at early ages, 18,19,20 years of age,” said Dr. Lacagnina.
Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of both men and women--but the good news is, it can be prevented, even reversed, through a healthy diet and an active lifestyle. “The standard American diet is basically salt, sugar, and fat, and all of those things contribute to cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, etc., so we really have to be careful about what we put in our mouths because it makes a tremendous difference as we get older,” he said.
Eighty percent of heart disease is attributed to lifestyle—meaning only 20 percent is caused by genetics. “What’s inherited is a bad lifestyle, in the majority of cases, it’s not really bad genes. The studies actually show that even when you inherit bad genes, per se, you can do something to keep them turned off with a healthy lifestyle,” Dr. Lacagnina said.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle includes regular physical activity, limiting animal products and oils, eating more fruits and vegetables, and stress management—all can prevent and reverse hardening of the arteries.