February is heart health awareness month, but taking good care of your heart should be a year-round effort. The heart is an amazingly resilient organ and beats on average 2.5 billion times in a lifetime. Heart related illnesses are among the leading causes of death around the world, so keeping on top of your heart health is the best way to live a longer and happier life.
What can you do to make your heart healthier?
Stop smoking. Smoking is one of the leading causes of heart and lung disease. If you or someone you know is a smoker, do everything you can to encourage them (or yourself) to quit as soon as possible.
Get exercise every day. Exercise is free and available to everyone. You don’t need to go to a gym to break a sweat. All you need is a good pair of shoes, comfortable clothes, and you’re good to go. Every time you exercise you are conditioning your heart to have a little less blood than it wants, which helps make it stronger. This conditioning – pre-stressing your heart through exercise – can actually help you survive heart attacks. Exercise also lowers your blood pressure, decreases your pulse rate, and helps with weight loss.
Maintain a healthy diet. The kinds of foods we eat are a significant factor in our overall health. It is important to avoid certain high risk foods like sugary drinks and fast foods. Due to poor dietary habits, one third of Americans are obese and one half of people are overweight. If you want to improve your diet, you should do the following.
- Drink more water: Staying hydrated is key
- Eat more leafy greens: These help remove cholesterol from your body
- Eat fresh fruit for dessert: Blueberries and cranberries are full of antioxidants
- Embrace healthy fats that you get from almonds, walnuts, and avocados
- Add fiber to your diet: It helps eliminate cholesterol and makes your digestive system more regular
It’s important to remember that not all risk factors are equal, so eating healthy foods for one meal won’t cancel out other bad behaviors.
What are some less commonly discussed topics about heart disease?
Gum disease is a killer. Whether its gingivitis or periodontitis, gum disease drives up inflammatory markers in your bloodstream, which is very closely associated with heart disease. If you have chronic inflammation, you are at a two or three times greater risk of having heart disease. To combat this, buy a water pick and visit a dentist every six months.
Marriage saves lives. Being married is statistically shown to reduce death rates in general, and heart disease is no different. While it isn’t known exactly why this is the case, we believe it may be that spouses remind you to eat better, exercise, take your blood pressure pill, and give you a stronger will to live.
Manage your stress. Men and women react to stress differently. Women exhibit constriction of the minor blood vessels of the heart when stressed, while men experience elevated blood pressure and heart rate. Overall, men have a higher rate of heart disease than women. Regardless of how you show stress, it’s important to get a handle on it. Regular exercise, taking time to decompress, and seeking help when you need it are all great ways to live a happier, healthier life and put less stress on your heart.
Take your family history seriously. If everyone in your family had a heart attack by age 50, you should be seeing a cardiologist much earlier in life. Not all forms of heart disease are genetic, but risky habits like a poor diet and overall lifestyle are often learned from others who set a bad example.
Take care of your chronic illnesses. Having diabetes or hypertension can be lifelong battles, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t fight them. In fact, if you take good care of yourself, you can treat your diabetes or hypertension to the point where you are virtually free of the effects of the disease.
What help is available?
At U.S. HealthWorks, we take pride in providing thoughtful and scientifically backed information to all of our patients. We know that people trust their doctors for medical advice, and thankfully listen to doctors more than other sources of information. All of our clinics are equipped with trained doctors and nurses to treat hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and more. In addition to treating ongoing problems, we will talk to you about heart disease prevention so you can get a head start on fighting heart problems.