Avoiding Heart Disease: Environmental Aspects

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Just as your emotional health influences the development of cardiovascular disease, your environment can also play a huge role.  Today we’re going to talk about a couple of the harmful factors in the environment around you, and what you can do to change them.

Quit Smoking

Alright, you had to know this was going to come up at some point, right?  I’ve never been a smoker and I don’t know how hard it is to give it up, so I can’t say that I’ve been there, or that I know what you’re going through.  I don’t.  What I do know is that I have seen more lives damaged by smoking than just about anything else.  If you’re really serious about taking charge of your health and pursuing wellness in your life, you need to find a way to kick the habit.  Ask yourself why you smoke.  Does it fill some need in your life?  Hide some insecurity that you have?  Give you a sense of identity?  I’d encourage you to leave no stone unturned in your quest to give it up.  Whether you use the patch, the gum, hypnosis, gradually decrease the amount you smoke, or just stop cold turkey, quitting smoking is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.  I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but I’ll say it again just in case.  Nicotine constricts your blood vessels, leading to high blood pressure, which makes your heart work harder than it has to.  Smoking also releases free radicals into your lungs and your blood stream, which lead to cancer of all kinds, including lung, bladder, esophageal, and oral cancers.  It compromises blood flow throughout your entire body, causing kidney disease, peripheral vascular disease, and eventually amputation.  I’ve seen every one of these in the patients that I’ve cared for over the years, and I have to say, there’s nothing pretty about it.

If you don’t smoke, but you live with someone who does, ask them not to smoke in the house.  It isn’t fair for you to be exposed to the toxins in the air because of someone else’s choices.  Open the windows and the doors, air out your house, get the vents and the carpets cleaned, and do your best to get rid of all the pollution thats built up over the years.  I’ve been using activated charcoal bags in my house for the last 6 months to help clean up the indoor air quality, and I have definitely noticed a difference.  My house doesn’t smell like dog or plastic or any of the chemicals that typically build up in a new home.  They’re available from Amazon, cheap, and last a couple years.

Reduce Stress

This goes back to the emotional aspect of heart disease, but as you may have noticed already, all five elements of health are a bit interrelated.  If you’re stuck in an environment that stresses you out, that’s going to affect your heart.  The low level, chronic stress of modern life, when left unchecked, leads to atherosclerotic plaques, thickened vessel walls, and an overall increased risk of heart disease.  You can either change the situation by getting out of it, or, if you can’t do that, change your reaction.  Remind yourself that its not worth the stress and damage to your body to get worked up over situations you can’t change.

I know the environment around us is one of the harder areas to control, so try and start small.  Take little steps to change the things you can control, and eventually you will be able to change the bigger things.  If you’ve successfully quit smoking, I’d love to hear about it, as we can all learn from each other’s success.

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