Show Your Heart Some Love
Your heart has one of the most important jobs in your body, however, your overall health can affect your heart health. Here are some ways you can pamper your heart this year and keep it performing in top condition!
Controllable Risk Factors for Heart Disease
While some risk factors for developing heart disease cannot be changed, like age or family history, others can. It is important to understand these risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease so that you can make the proper lifestyle adjustments to counteract them.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for developing heart disease. Because this health condition has no symptoms until later stages, one of the best ways to catch it early is to measure your blood pressure levels regularly at home (blood pressure cuff, smartwatch, etc.) or even during your regular wellness visits with your primary care physician.
Your body produces both HDL (good cholesterol) as well as LDL (bad cholesterol) on its own. When there is an excessive amount of LDL present, this is referred to as high cholesterol. Family history plays a role in the development of high cholesterol, and it is a risk factor you cannot control. Many lifestyle and behavioral choices can affect your LDL levels, including:
- Lack of exercise
- Smoking tobacco products
- Excessive weight gain
- Fatty diet
Alcohol and Tobacco Use
Drinking alcohol excessively can increase the presence of fatty deposits in the blood. This can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Additionally, smoking tobacco can increase your risk of developing heart disease by:
- Damaging blood vessels
- Raising blood pressure
- Increasing your levels of carbon monoxide, which reduces the amount of oxygen your blood can carry
How to Reduce Your Risk
Adapt a Heart-Healthy Diet
Proper nutrition plays an important role in maintaining heart health.
Adding these foods to your diet can help you reduce your risk for developing cardiovascular disease:
- Leafy greens
- Certain nuts such as walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc.
- Oily fish
- Whole grains
- Omega 3s
- Dark chocolate
Cutting back on your consumption of sugar also can help you to lower your risk of developing heart-related health issues. It is recommended that people should keep their added sugar intake to less than 10 percent of their daily caloric intake. For example, if you consume a 2,000 calorie diet each day, your sugar intake should be no more than 200 calories or 50 grams.
When you’re exposed to stressful situations, your body releases cortisol and other hormones, which trigger your natural “fight or flight” senses. When your body is exposed to these hormones for extended periods of time, it can disrupt the way your body usually functions, putting you at risk of developing high blood pressure and even heart disease.
These factors make it important to learn proper and healthy ways to manage your stress. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, the following coping mechanisms can effectively help you manage your stress levels:
- Identify what your triggers are and find ways to eliminate them
- Spend time with loved ones
- Talk to someone you trust
- Practice meditation and mindfulness
- Practice deep breathing
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), adults require seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night. Getting quality sleep consistently can actually help to reduce your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.
The following tips can help you get a better night’s rest:
- Avoid taking long naps throughout the day
- Set a specific bedtime and time to wake up time each day
- Avoid the use of artificial light and electronics in your bedroom
- Avoid nicotine and alcohol consumption before bed
According to the American Heart Association, it is recommended that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise each week. The following exercises can help you to reverse the negative effects of leading an inactive lifestyle:
Moderate-intensity exercise may include:
- Brisk walking
- Riding a bicycle
- Water aerobics
- Doubles tennis
- Swimming leisurely
Vigorous-intensity exercise may include:
- Singles tennis
- Swimming laps
- Jumping rope
According to the American Heart Association, a heart attack happens when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart is cut off or reduced significantly.
This happens because the coronary arteries that transport oxygenated blood to the heart are being blocked by cholesterol, fat and other substances, called plaque. Once this plaque is damaged, a blood clot will form around it—ultimately blocking blood flow.
When the heart is deprived of essential oxygen and nutrients, part of the heart muscle is damaged or dies, it’s called myocardial infarction—more commonly known as a heart attack.
Signs of a Heart Attack
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important that you act quickly and acknowledge them as symptoms of a heart attack, even if you are not certain.
It is important to note that the signs and symptoms of a heart attack can manifest differently in men and women. Because symptoms can present themselves more subtly in women, many mistake heart-attack symptoms for less severe health conditions such as acid reflux or the flu.
Heart attack symptoms in men can include:
- Chest discomfort or pain lasting more than a minute
- Discomfort or pain in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweat
While women can have the same symptoms as men, these heart attack symptoms are more common for women:
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Back pain
- Jaw pain
What to do if You Suspect a Heart Attack
If you suspect that you or a loved one may be having a heart attack, you should seek immediate emergency care. Call 911, as it is the fastest way to receive immediate and life-saving medical attention.
Cardiovascular Care in Northeast Ohio
At Southwest General Medical Group, Inc., our team of physicians has years of experience in evaluating and caring for patients with various types of cardiovascular conditions including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart valve disease, congestive heart failure and more. To learn more about our cardiovascular services or schedule an appointment, visit our website.