September 28, 2023
You Can Impact Your Heart Health
With the expansion of Cardiology services at Fort HealthCare, we are determined to improve the heart health of our communities. A healthy heart is central to overall good health and by embracing a healthy lifestyle you can prevent heart disease and lower your risk for a heart attack or stroke. You are never too old or too young to begin taking care of your heart. Swapping good habits for bad to promote good heart health can make a difference!
Things that you can control that put you at higher risk for heart disease include:
- High blood pressure
- Weight and nutrition
- High cholesterol levels
Things that you cannot control that put you at higher risk for heart disease include:
- Family history of heart disease (especially a parent or sibling)
Just a glance at the above list demonstrates that you can control many of the risk factors leading to heart disease and below are a few important details about those items you can control:
Smoking tops the list of risk factors for heart disease. The American Heart Association (AHA) states that diseases caused by smoking kill more than 440,000 people in the U.S. each year. In fact, smoking is the single most preventable cause of early death in the U.S. Have you wondered why and how smoking is so dangerous to the heart? Below is a list of physical changes that occur when you smoke:
- Causes an instant and long-term rise in blood pressure
- Causes an instant and long-term rise in heart rate
- Reduces blood flow from the heart
- Reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches the body’s tissues
- Raises risk for blood clots
- Harms blood vessels
- Reduces blood flow to the brain
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is when the force of the blood is too high within the arteries. The arteries may have an increased resistance against the flow of blood. This causes your heart to pump harder to circulate the blood. Treatment for high blood pressure can involve some important lifestyle changes such as choosing foods that are low in salt (sodium), calories and fat and high in fiber, limiting serving sizes, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, drinking fewer or no alcoholic beverages, reducing stress, and getting enough quality sleep.
Weight and Nutrition
Eating a healthy diet can help prevent heart disease by ensuring you maintain a healthy weight and are receiving necessary nutrition. Many adults find their relationship with food is complicated and difficult to alter. The below list suggests a few tips that may help you make the necessary changes in your diet to achieve heart health:
- Keep a food diary.Write down what you eat, where you eat, and how you feel before and after you eat.
- Make half your plate and vegetables.Recommended serving sizes vary based on age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity levels. Go to gov/myplate-plan to see your personalized diet recommendations.
- Choose whole-grain foods.These include brown rice and whole-wheat bread. Don’t eat foods made with refined white sugar, flour, high-fructose corn syrup, or saturated fat.
- Weigh and measure food.This is so you can learn healthy portion sizes. For instance, a 3-ounce serving of meat is the size of a deck of cards. Don’t order super-sized menu items.
- Learn to read food nutrition labels and use them.Keep the number of portions you are really eating in mind.
- Balance your food checkbook.If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. Weigh yourself each week.
- Don’t eat foods that are high in energy density.This means foods that have a lot of calories in small amounts. For instance, a cheeseburger with fries can have as much as 1,000 calories and 30 or more grams of fat. Order a grilled chicken sandwich or a plain hamburger and a small salad with low-fat dressing instead. You can avoid hundreds of calories and lower your fat intake. For dessert, have a serving of fruit, yogurt, a small piece of angel food cake, or a piece of dark chocolate.
- Reduce portion sizes. Using a smaller plate can help you do this.
High Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol is a fat-like, waxy substance that can be found in all parts of your body. It helps your body make cell membranes, many hormones, and vitamin D. The cholesterol in your blood comes from two sources: the foods you eat and your liver. Cholesterol from food comes from animal sources such as meat and dairy. Your liver makes all the cholesterol your body needs.
Cholesterol and other fats are carried in your bloodstream as spherical particles called lipoproteins. The two most commonly known lipoproteins are low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). These are the two lipoproteins that are routinely measured through bloodwork. You want your LDL to be low and your HDL levels as high as possible and you can control that by not eating foods that are high in saturated fat and trans-fat, such as red meat, fried foods, cheese, or butter. Instead, eat a heart healthy diet that includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, poultry, fish, nuts, and non-tropical vegetable oils. Exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking are additional tactics to achieve ideal cholesterol levels. There are situations where medication is necessary to reduce high cholesterol and you should work with your health care provider on a treatment plan.
Exercise is vital for your health and can improve your overall sense of well-being. Even low-to-moderate intensity activities for 30 minutes a day can help. As you develop a plan for an exercise program that meets your needs, remember the following tips:
- Exercise each week.Aim for at least 150 minutes of medium to intense physical activity per week. For instance, this can be 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. Examples of medium-intensity exercise are walking a 15-minute mile or weeding and hoeing a garden. Running is a more intense activity.
- Build activity into your day.Look for ways to get 10 or 15 minutes of some type of activity during the day. Walk around the block. Walk up and down a few flights of stairs.
As you can see, many facets of heart health are in your control! If you need help in tailoring a heart health plan that is right for you, reach out to your Primary Care Provider to get started today.