Preventing heart disease is all about the long game. It takes endurance, dedication, will-power, and a good support network. For some that may sound like pain, suffering, and torture. It doesn’t have to be like that though. Staying healthy can be challenging, but it’s rewarding, feels good, will boost your self-esteem, and can help you from becoming just another statistic.
To help you understand your risk of heart disease and what to do about it, here are 5 facts that all men need to know:
1. Just because you don’t have symptoms doesn’t mean you don’t need to see a doctor
The key thing to know about heart disease is that it’s not like a sprained ankle or a paper-cut. Heart disease takes years, often decades, to develop. When people finally have symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, or leg swelling, it may be too late. The best time to combat heart disease is before it starts. Although it may not be as simple as this, many people would probably prefer to exercise and eat well than have to be subjected to daily medications, procedures, and even surgeries years down the line. Modern medicine has great treatments for heart disease, but they’ll never get your heart back to what it was in the first place. There’s no better time to start than right now to get yourself on the right track.
2. Lifestyle changes are an important first step in being healthy, but some people need medications too
Let’s face it… no one wants to take medications if they don’t have to. On the flip side though, you shouldn’t feel like a failure if your doctor recommends a medication to help control your risk of having heart disease. For example, exercise and dietary changes can have great effects on your blood pressure and cholesterol. Some people still have numbers that are too high with those changes alone though. You may ask yourself, “If I feel fine and I’m living a healthy lifestyle, why do I need medicine?” If you’ve thought that before, the answer is simple. Lifestyle changes are definitely beneficial in reducing your risk of heart disease, but if they don’t bring your risk factors into a low risk category, adding a medication can actually help you prevent a heart attack, stroke, or other form of cardiovascular disease. It’s not that you’re not doing well enough, or trying hard enough. Some people have genetic contributions to their risk profile or just need a little extra to help them out. One shouldn’t be substituted for another, nor should it be an either or decision.
3. The average age of having a first heart attack in men is 65
There’s no getting around this one. In your 30s and think you’re off the hook? Think again. It takes decades for heart disease to develop? The reason why heart disease is so preventable – 80% preventable according to the World Health Organization – is because if you start early enough with lifestyle changes to prevent it, most of it won’t happen. The key point here is that you only know your risk if you check it. Since heart disease is the #1 cause of death in the US, everyone should have a heart check to make sure they understand their risk factors and how to modify them as best as possible to prevent anything bad happening years down the road.
4. Erectile dysfunction can be a sign of heart disease
Have people always told you to think with your brain and not your penis? That may be good advice, but in this case, you should definitely pay attention to what your penis is trying to tell you. Erectile dysfunction can have several different causes, but one important cause is called peripheral arterial disease. Essentially, the same way that arteries of the heart can become blocked by cholesterol, fat, and inflammation – called plaque – arteries in other parts of the body can become blocked the same way. The risk factors for both are the same, as are the treatments and preventive strategies. Don’t be embarrassed of this issue since it’s a very important one to discuss with your doctor if you have it. Research shows that erectile dysfunction can be an early sign of heart disease and present years before someone might have a heart attack.
5. Man’s best friend actually can help you live longer
Dogs have always been man’s best friend, right? Well, aside from all the other ways they’ve got your back all that drool and dog food may actually help you live longer. Dog owners actually tend to live longer than those going it alone. It probably relates to the exercise you get being active with your dog since those with hunting breeds get the most benefit. Regardless, pets are great for stress relief, companionship, and forcing you to be a little less of a couch potato. If dogs aren’t your thing, marriage can also actually help you live longer… for better or worse, in sickness and in health.