By Dr. Greg Quinn, founder of MedChefs
Like a merry-go-round building momentum, life seems to be moving by faster and faster…certainly, this is something we can all relate to. But as a cardiologist I have grown to respect this sentiment from a different perspective. Many patients view the prospect of losing their health and longevity as a later-in-life concern and “kick the can down the road.” From my clinical experience we must:
- Develop a sense of urgency
- And, let go of our fear of change
Why urgency? All too often lives are upended by a heart attack or even worse, sudden death. The additional tragedy of sudden cardiac death (SCD) lies in the word “sudden.” This is defined as a person dying within an hour of onset of symptoms. This is not a rare event. It occurs over 300,000 times each year in the US alone. Many of these people weren’t aware they even had a heart problem brewing. These poor souls awakened that day and had no idea it would be their last. Sudden cardiac death has no regard for your plans, career, or family. It simply taps one’s shoulder and says, “it’s time.”
SCD is just one form of heart disease. In fact, heart disease is the number one cause of death in this country, responsible for more than 800,000 deaths per year which is more than all other causes, combined. Yet, what keeps me positive is knowing it doesn’t have to be this way.
The heart disease “pandemic” is a disease of lifestyle.
The cumulative daily choices we make can be the difference between a long life of health and wellbeing… or not. The facts are clear: if we don’t smoke, eat healthy, exercise regularly and maintain a normal weight (and as a result maintain normal blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels), heart disease is reduced by nearly 90%! That is almost a cure achieved by simply making better choices. So how hard is it to make these choices? Well, clearly it is difficult or we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Is it a lack of awareness? I suspect not, for most know that they should exercise more and eat better. So, what’s missing? As mentioned above, it is lack of urgency but also it is fear of change. Particularly with dietary change, it’s a persistence of the myth that healthy food won’t satisfy us. A healthy dietary pattern is defined as adequate consumption of fruits, vegetables, high fiber foods, whole grains and legumes while minimizing salt, added sugar and processed meats. Notice there can be room for meat in a healthy meal plan, but we are just too reliant on it in our society. With over 20,000 edible fruits and vegetables approaching a change in diet can be a delicious revelation. All you need to do is expand your horizons.