February is National Heart Health Awareness Month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. The good news? It is also one of the most preventable.
Making small changes in your habits can make a real difference to your ticker. Some of those changes include:
Choose good nutrition
A healthy diet is one of the best weapons you have to fight cardiovascular disease. The food you eat (and the amount) can affect other controllable risk factors: cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and overweight. Choose a diet that emphasizes intake of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains; includes low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, no tropical vegetable oils, and nuts; and limits intake of sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red meats.
If you smoke, quit. If someone in your household smokes, encourage them to quit. We know it’s tough. But it’s tougher to recover from a heart attack or stroke or to live with chronic heart disease.
To keep it simple, you can aim for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week of moderate exercise. That includes any activity that gets you moving around and breaking a slight sweat.
Get more sleep
The next time you’re tempted to stay up later than you should, remember how comfy that pillow will feel and how good a full night’s sleep is for your heart. In one study, young and middle-age adults who slept 7 hours a night had less calcium in their arteries (an early sign of heart disease) than those who slept 5 hours or less or those who slept 9 hours or more.
Monitor your blood pressure
That cuff squeezing your arm at every doctor’s visit is important. It measures the amount of pressure flowing through your arteries with every heartbeat. If your blood pressure gets too high, the extra force can damage artery walls and create scar tissue. That makes it harder for blood and oxygen to get to and from your heart. The heart has to pump harder and gets worn out faster. Get your blood pressure checked at least once a year and discuss the results with your doctor.
Find out if you have diabetes
Millions of people don’t know that they have this condition. That’s risky because over time, high blood sugar damages arteries and makes heart disease more likely. Your doctor should test your blood sugar if you are 45 or older, if you are pregnant, or if you’re overweight and have other risk factors for diabetes.
Managing stress in a healthy way, whether its meditation, yoga, or exercise is important. Make it a point, too, to spend time with people you’re close to. Talk, laugh, confide, and enjoy each other. It’s good for your emotional health and your heart.
Take a look at your weight
Ask your doctor if your weight is OK. Obesity is highly prevalent in America. Fad diets and supplements are not the answer. Good nutrition, controlling calorie intake and physical activity are the only way to maintain a healthy weight. Obesity places you at risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and insulin resistance, a precursor of type 2 diabetes — the very factors that heighten your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Hunterdon Gastroenterology can help with weight loss with ReShape. ReShape jump starts your weight loss by placing two connected saline-filled gastric balloons, made of medical-grade silicone, inside your stomach for six months. The weight loss balloon takes up room in your stomach so there’s less space for food and you feel full faster. Clinically proven, the ReShape weight loss procedure is helping people lose weight and keep it off. But perhaps most importantly, our patients are embracing their futures, improving their health, and feeling more confident than ever.
For more information please call Hunterdon Gastroenterology Associates at 908-483-4000.
WebMD Tips for Better Heart Health. Oct. 2017
American Heart Association. Lifestyle Changes for Heart Attack Prevention. 2017