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Heart Smart Men Put Their Health First

With the demands of life, it can be hard for people to make sure they’re taking care of themselves — but there may be a reason men are stereotypically pegged as being notoriously bad at self-care.

In February, the American Heart Association marks the month of love with American Heart Month. And the message to men is simple: We love your big hearts, and we want them to be healthy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States, killing 321,000 men in 2013. That is one in every four male deaths. Between 70 and 89 percent of all sudden cardiac events happen to men.

Even more worrisome is that half of the men who die of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms.

“A patient can develop severe coronary atherosclerosis with minimal symptoms,” said Carl Horton, M.D., a cardiologist with Texas Health Physicians Group. “Sometimes the first sign of coronary artery disease is an acute heart attack without previous symptoms.”

According to the CDC, about half of all Americans have at least one of the key risk factors for heart disease — high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol and smoking. Diabetes, being overweight, having a poor diet, having a sedentary lifestyle and excessive alcohol use can also be risk factors.

But why do men seem to experience the bulk of sudden cardiac events?

“This is an interesting question and one that deserves further study,” said Horton. “I am not sure that we know the exact reason for this statistic.”

“Men as a group, in general, do develop atherosclerosis at earlier ages than women,” he continued. “Most men have lower levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein, ‘the good cholesterol’) compared to women.

“Men are also less likely to keep regular physician appointments and are less likely to have screenings for risk factors that can contribute to atherosclerosis.”

The CDC includes screening and doctor appointments in its list of the ways men can reduce their heart disease risks and even provides a list of questions you can ask your healthcare provider.

What are some other ways to reduce your risks?

“Moderate aerobic exercise activity for at least 40 minutes, four times a week,” said Horton. “Restrict your cholesterol dietary intake, and know your numbers — blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol — and get treatment if needed.”

Other ways to improve heart health include the following:

  1. Stop smoking, and if you don’t smoke, don’t start. More than 392,000 people die from a tobacco-caused disease. There are more than 4,800 chemicals in tobacco smoke, and many are damaging to blood vessels and the heart.
  2. Watch your weight. Losing just 10 to 15 pounds can help lower blood pressure and prevent diabetes.
  3. Take your medication as directed.
  4. Drink alcohol in moderation, or not at all.

Interested in assessing your own risks or finding a cardiologist? Check out our Heart Health Resource page for heart facts, request a Healthy Heart Kit, and take the online heart assessment. You can also head to the physician finder to locate a cardiologist and in your neighborhood.

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