Are You Ben? A Fathers Day Message…

Heart Disease Facts & How to Lower Your Risk for Heart Disease

Anne Mercer Larson
June 13, 2016
Revised June 13, 2018

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.

CDC heart disease statistics reveal just how pervasive cardiovascular disease is among males over 35:

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States—in 2013, 321,000 men died of heart disease (1 in 4 deaths).
  • More than one in three men suffer from cardiovascular disease(CVD).
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men of most racial/ethnic groups in the United States, including African Americans, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Hispanics, and whites. For Asian American or Pacific Islander men, heart disease is second only to cancer.
  • About 8.5% of all white men, 7.9% of black men, and 6.3% of Mexican American men have coronary heart disease.
  • 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.

Heart Disease Risk Factors

Unfortunately, Ben is just one of millions of men whose smoking, lack of exercise, and overweight increases their risk for heart disease. 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
  • Leading a sedentary lifestyle
  • Being a moderate to heavy alcohol drinker (more than 2 drinks a day),
  • Experiencing 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. – CDC Heart Disease Fact Sheet

Lifestyle changes

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 implementing a weight management program, Ben could have started eating healthier foods, stopped smoking, and minimized his alcohol intake.

Although a lifestyle change does not guarantee you won’t be diagnosed with heart disease at some point, it could potentially reduce your risk for suffering high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, or even cardiac arrest.

actual age vs heart age

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 nourishes the growth of certain beneficial gastrointestinal bacteria, especially bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. Research has shown there is a strong link between improving the mix of bacteria in the gut and decreasing disease risk, like heart attacks.   

Taking prebiotics has also been shown to increase production of chemicals called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), that play such an important role in colon health since they have systemic anti-inflammatory effects.

Since heart disease is essentially inflammation of the heart and its various structures, prebiotics may reduce your risk for heart disease by suppressing “bad” bacteria growth and allowing your “good” gut bacteria to party like there’s no tomorrow!

Need proof about the benefits of taking prebiotics? Here are just a few of the hundreds of clinical research findings regarding prebiotics and heart health:

  • In a 2016 review article on the impact of prebiotics and probiotics on cardiovascular disease (CVD) and related metabolic disorders, the authors write, “Probiotics and prebiotics can ameliorate T2DM [type 2 diabetes] and CVD through improvement of gut microbiota, which in turn leads to insulin-signaling stimulation and cholesterol-lowering effects.”
  • In a 2018 study the authors state that targeting the gut microbiota with inulin-type fructans may improve the function of the endothelium in blood vessels and reduce the risk of metabolic disorders-related cardiovascular diseases.
  • In another 2014 review article, the authors summarize recent research that connects human gut microbiome activities with CVD and how such activities may be modulated by diet. They conclude that dietary strategies which modulate the gut microbiota or their metabolic activities, including prebiotics, are emerging as efficacious tools for reducing CVD risk.  Indeed, the way to a healthy heart may be through a healthy gut microbiota.

In fact, famed Cleveland Clinic researchers have discovered that it could be possible to treat or prevent diet-induced heart disease by tweaking your gut bacteria.

“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).” –Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials 9 Amazing, Weird Facts About Your Gut

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! Visit Prebiotin today to order one of the most medically researched and trusted physician-recommended prebiotic formulas available online.

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 be preventing 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

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)

For a Lifetime of Great Gut Health—Just Feed It!

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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. [Epub ahead of print]

CDC Heart Disease Fact Sheet

CDC Men and Heart Disease Fact Sheet

Congenital Heart Defects. NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: 

Doshi Vidhi. Why Doctors Still Misunderstand Heart Disease in Women. The Atlantic. OCT 26, 2015.

Heart Attack: Know the Symptoms. Take Action. National Heart Long and Blood Institute Fact Sheet. 4 December 2011.NIH Publication No. 11-7791.

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. doi: 10.1007/s11897-016-0285-9.

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.

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