5 Ways to Improve Heart Health
While we celebrate American Heart Month during the month of February, it’s important to take care of your heart all year long. Every day your heart beats – for you, and for those you love. But every 34 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack. Every year, your heart keeps you strong. But every year, heart disease claims around 610,000 lives.
“Heart disease – and other conditions that lead to it – can happen at any age,” says Nicole Davis, MD, Chestnut Hill Family Care Associates, Wyncote. “High rates of obesity and high blood pressure among younger people (ages 35-64) are putting them at risk for heart disease earlier in life.” If you worry that you or someone you love will get heart disease or even have a heart attack, it’s understandable, but you don’t have to be a part of these statistics. There are simple ways to start your path to a healthy heart:
Learn your risk and understand your body. Some risk factors like age, genes, sex and race or ethnicity cannot be changed, but others are acquired from your lifestyle and can be changed. Learning and understanding the difference can help you prevent heart disease and a heart attack.
Test your blood pressure. Abnormally high blood pressure, called hypertension, is known as the silent killer because it presents very few symptoms and is a leading indicator of heart disease – managing yours can save your life.
Maintain healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Elevated cholesterol levels can lead to a stroke, heart attack, or other health conditions. Your heart is also affected by your blood sugar levels, which can increase your risk of diabetic heart disease. Eating a diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish can help you maintain healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels – and a healthy heart.
Measure your Body Mass Index (BMI). Excess body weight is directly linked to a higher risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and other severe health conditions. If your BMI is over 25, talk to your physician about a weight management plan that can help you lose weight and gain a stronger heart.
Stress less and quit smoking.
Managing stress is a good idea for your overall health, and researchers are currently studying whether managing stress is effective for heart disease. Stress may affect behaviors and factors that increase heart disease risk: high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, smoking, physical inactivity and overeating. Some people may choose to drink too much alcohol or smoke cigarettes to “manage” their chronic stress, however these habits can increase blood pressure and may damage artery walls.
Smoking, even occasionally, damages the blood vessels and can cause heart disease. Quitting can be beneficial to your overall health, even if you’ve smoked for years. Talk to your physician about smoking cessation programs to help you stay motivated.
Help your heart grow stronger so you can live longer. Learn about your risk for heart disease by taking Chestnut Hill Hospital – Tower Health’s FREE heart risk assessment. Use the knowledge you gain to empower yourself in making the positive changes for your heart health. Your family will thank you because taking control of your heart health means strengthening everything it beats for. Visit THCardio.org to complete your heart risk assessment today.