How to Reduce Your Risk for Heart Disease
Even though Ben was about 30 pounds overweight and didn’t always get the exercise he should, he felt better than ever at his 40th birthday party. Surrounded by family and friends, he helped himself to a big piece of birthday cake, drank some champagne, smoked his favorite cigars, and sat around a bonfire enjoying roasted marshmallows.
Later, Ben awoke in the middle of the night feeling nauseous, anxious, and short of breath. Unfamiliar sharp pains in his chest and back made him wonder if he was suffering a bad case of indigestion. He got up, chewed a couple antacid tablets, and went back to bed. Eventually, the pain and nausea subsided. He felt better in the morning, just a little weak. “I must be getting old,” he joked with his wife. “I can’t handle a simple birthday party anymore!”
Six months later, Ben suffered a heart attack. He survived but discovered what he thought was acid indigestion had been a mild heart attack.
Ben is not alone. CDC heart disease statistics reveal just how common cardiovascular disease is among males over 35:
- More than one in three men suffer from cardiovascular disease (CVD).
- In 2013, 321,000 men died of heart disease (1 in 4 deaths).
- Average age for the first heart attack is 65.6 years for males and 72.0 years for females.
- Half of the men who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have had no previous symptoms.
- Between 70% and 89% of sudden cardiac events occur in men.
According to CDC statistics, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men* in the United States, especially black males:
Black Males: 258.6 deaths per 100,000 U.S. people
White Males: 211.2 deaths per 100,000 U.S. people
[Black Females also have higher rates: 165.7 per 100,000 compared to 132.4 for White Females.]
* For Asian American or Pacific Islander men, heart disease is second only to cancer.
Heart Disease Risk Factors
Unfortunately, Ben is just one of millions of men whose smoking, lack of exercise, and overweight increases heart disease risk. According to the CDC, lifestyle choices and medical conditions that put people at a higher risk for heart disease include:
- Type I and Type II diabetes
- Obesity (defined by being 80-100 pounds over normal weight)
- Poor dietary choices (low in fruits, vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, fish, legumes. Too much red meat and sugar-sweetened beverages).
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle
- Moderate to heavy alcohol consumption (more than 2 drinks a day)
- Chronic stress
Congenital heart defects or structural heart defects present at birth can also put younger men at risk for suffering heart disease, heart attacks, and cardiac arrest. Common types of heart defects involve heart valves, interior walls of the heart, and problems affecting veins and arteries carrying blood to the body or heart.
Men with more serious congenital heart defects are especially at risk for heart disease if they do not pay attention to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
The most common risk factors are high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking—about half of Americans (49%) have at least one of these three risk factors
Lifestyle changes for better heart health
If Ben had visited his physician for a complete check-up that morning, he would have found out that his discomfort after the party was actually a “silent” heart attack. Along with starting a weight loss program, Ben could have added healthier foods to his diet, stopped smoking, and minimized his alcohol intake.
Although lifestyle changes don’t guarantee heart health, you can reduce your risk for high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, or even cardiac arrest.
With chest pain, nausea, and shortness of breath, Ben had a few of the common symptoms of heart attack. Here is a list of common symptoms that you may experience:
- Chest discomfort. An early sign is discomfort that may come and go. More severe pain may feel like heavy pressure on the chest.
- Upper body discomfort. Pain that radiates to the upper body, including the shoulders, neck, jaw, in one or both arms, in the upper stomach, or back.
- Shortness of breath.
Other possible symptoms of a heart attack:
- Breaking out in a cold sweat.
- Unusually tired for no reason.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Light-headedness or sudden dizziness.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s best to call 911 right away!
Can Prebiotics contribute to a healthy heart?
One step Ben—and you—can take to reduce the risk for heart disease is to add Prebiotin® Prebiotic Fiber into your daily diet. Prebiotics are a type of soluble fiber that is fermented in the colon and nourishes the growth of certain beneficial gastrointestinal bacteria, especially bifidobacteria and lactobacilli.
Research has shown there is a strong link between a healthy mix of bacteria in the gut and decreasing disease risk, like heart attacks. Taking a prebiotic is one way of improving the composition of the gut microbiome. By eating a diet rich in fiber supplementing with prebiotic fiber like Prebiotin, you will increase the beneficial bacteria that produce chemicals called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs play such an important role in colon health since they reduce inflammation throughout the body.
Since heart disease is essentially inflammation of the heart and its various structures, reducing inflammation by taking Prebiotin may reduce your risk for heart disease.
If you want to boost the bacteria in your bowel, eat a high fiber diet or take fiber supplements. Fiber is a prebiotic that the bacteria can convert to healthy chemicals for nourishment (that can also help prevent colon cancer).
Need proof about the benefits of taking prebiotics for heart disease?
Here are just a few of hundreds of studies that focus on prebiotics and heart health:
- In a 2016 review article, the authors point out that both prebiotics and probiotics can improve heart disease (and Type 2 diabetes) symptoms.
- In a 2018 study, the authors state that targeting the gut microbiota with a prebiotic like Prebiotin may improve the lining of blood vessel cells and reduce the risk of heart disease.
- The authors in another 2018 article, “Gut Microbiome and Cardiovascular Diseases,” have “high expectations” that changing the gut microbiome can be part of the therapeutic approach to heart disease.
- In fact, famed Cleveland Clinic researchers have also discovered that by tweaking your gut bacteria, you may be able to treat or prevent diet-induced heart disease.
Don’t be Ben…pay attention to your heart health!
Like many men, Ben did not like to take pills or go to the doctor. But, if he had known how simple it is to take prebiotics to change his gut microbiota from bad to awesome and make a few simple lifestyle changes, he may have avoided having a heart attack at age 40.
If you are male and over 35, don’t be a Ben. Pay attention to your heart health!
Action conquers fear. If you take even small steps to improve your heart and overall health, you will be making a difference. You will feel better, have more energy, and potentially prevent a serious cardiovascular event. And your family and friends will be thankful.
For more on the ways you can make easy, positive changes, see our blog "Reducing Obesity-Induced Inflammation - Men's Health Month".
While this blog focuses on men and heart disease, thousands of American women with heart disease are misdiagnosed every year, often with fatal consequences. While men are more likely to be diagnosed with heart disease, more than half of heart disease-related fatalities are women. Heart disease is currently the number-one cause of death among women in the U.S., killing more than all cancers combined. Source: The Atlantic, “Why Doctors Still Misunderstand Heart Disease in Women” (2015)
- American Heart Association. How to prevent heart disease at any age. Last Reviewed: Apr 1, 2015. Accessed June 6, 2019.
- American Heart Association. Warning Signs of a Heart Attack. Last reviewed: June 30, 2016. Accessed June 6, 2019.
- Benjamin EJ, Virani SS, Callaway CW, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2018 Update: A Report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2018;137:e67–e492.
- Catry E. Targeting the gut microbiota with inulin-type fructans: preclinical demonstration of a novel approach in the management of endothelial dysfunction. Gut. 2017 Apr 4. pii: gutjnl-2016-313316. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2016-313316.
- CDC Heart Disease Fact Sheet
- CDC Men and Heart Disease Fact Sheet
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. Critical congenital heart disease. NIH. Accessed 8-22-19.
- Doshi Vidhi. Why Doctors Still Misunderstand Heart Disease in Women. The Atlantic. OCT 26, 2015.
- Lashner Bret. 9 Amazing, Weird Facts about your Gut. Cleveland Clinic. March 29, 2016.
- McLoughlin RF, Berthon BS, Jensen ME, Baines KJ, Wood LG. Short-chain fatty acids, prebiotics, synbiotics, and systemic inflammation: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2017 Sept 1; 106 (3):930–945.
- Takeshi K, Kirsop J, Tang WHW. Exploring the Microbiome in Heart Failure. Curr Heart Fail Rep. 2016 Apr; 13(2): 103–109.
- Tuohy KM, Fava F, Viola R. The way to a man’s heart is through his gut microbiota’—dietary pro- and prebiotics for the management of cardiovascular risk. Proc Nutr Soc. 2014 May;73(2):172-85. doi: 10.1017/S0029665113003911. Epub 2014 Feb 4.
- Yoo JY, Kim SS. Probiotics and Prebiotics: Present Status and Future Perspectives on Metabolic Disorders. Nutrients. 2016 Mar 18;8(3):173. doi: 10.3390/nu8030173.
- Yoshida N, Yamashita T, Hirata K, et al. Gut Microbiome and Cardiovascular Diseases. Diseases. 2018 Sep; 6(3): 56. Published online 2018 Jun 29.