Beating Heart Disease in Your 20s

As a twenty-something, having heart disease is kind of the last thing on my mind... In fact, I have enough to worry about as a post-grad woman trying to figure out my life. A long list of things like my friends, family, career, relationship with God and so on come long before my thoughts about dying from heart disease. However, as a disease that kills 260,000 Americans each year (about 1 in 4 people,) I think it's my responsibility as a twenty-something to learn about the disease that could potentially kill my parents, family and friends down the road. 

What is Heart Disease? 
Heart disease is caused by the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries. Like the plaque on your teeth, plaque build-up on the arteries (aka atherosclerosis) is caused by fatty deposits of cholesterol that build-up over decades of time, slowly blocking the linings of the blood vessels. As a result, blood is not able to properly circulate to the heart and can cause complications such as extreme chest pain, heart attacks and even death.

What Can We Do To Prevent It?
Since the build-up of fatty deposits in our arteries takes years, it is essential that we aim to eat healthier diets and exercise daily to break down those deposits and prevent new plaque from forming. The best way to prevent heart disease is by lowering your cholesterol. This can be done by cutting down on three major things: saturated and trans fat, processed foods and animal products. It is also suggested that we up our intake of fiber which is believed to help break down plaque in the arteries. Interestingly enough, animal products like meat, eggs and fish contain no fiber. While things like fruits, vegetables, legume and whole grains are full of it...hmmm. 

What are Healthy Cholesterol Levels?
Total Cholesterol levels in the US are considered the following:
+ Low: 200 mg/dL or below
+ Healthy: 200-239 mg/dL
+ High 240 mg/dL or above

However, Doctor's advocating a plant-based diet will tell you that an ideal cholesterol is about 150 mg/dL. 

Sources:
+ 
https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/ldl/tab/test/
http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
+ How Not To Die - Michael Greger, M.D.