Wellness Notes - Healthy Hearts

With the month of "love" almost upon us, lets talk about our hearts and heart health. Having a healthy heart is really important. It's a busy organ that constantly pumps blood filled with oxygen and nutrients throught the arteries.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Coronary heart disease (CHD), or sometimes called coronary artery disease (CAD), is the most common type of heart disease. When someone has CHD, the arteries that take blood to the ehart are narrow or blocked. This happens when fatty material or cholesterol build up in the arteries. Having too much cholesterol or sugar in the blood, high blood pressure, or smoking frequently can cause the build up. If this happens, it's hard for blood to flow up to the heart. A blocked artery can cause chest pain or even a heart attack.

There are many things you can do to maintain or achieve a healthy heart, even if you've suffered cardiovascular health issues in the past.

  • Eat healthy - A healthy diet consists of a combination of different foods. Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts into your diet.

  • Get active - Staying active contributes to improved blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels, and weight control. Start with small amounts of physical activity and gradually increase as your doctor allows.

  • Stay at a healthy weight - Overweight and obesity are defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or above. It is recommended to have a BMI in good range and a waist circumference of less than 31.5 inches for females and less than 35.5 inches for males.

  • Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke - Both are very harmful to your heart. The biggest gift of health you can give yourself, with imemediate benefits, is to quit smoking. Doing this can help you live up to 10 years longer. A year after quitting, the risk of heart disease is about half that of a smoker. After 15 years without smoking, the risk of heart disease is the same as that of a non-smoker.

  • Control your cholesterol and blood pressure - High blood pressure can hurt your heart. Make sure to have your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol checked regularly by a health care worker.

  • Drink alcohol only in moderation - There are a few reports that say drinking a little wine may be beneficial, but to protect tyour heart, avoid drinking alcohol altogether.

  • Manage stress - Stress may lead to high blood pressure, which is a risk for heart attack and stroke. Stress may contribute to heart disease risks as much as smoking, overeating, and lack of physical activity does. Chronic stress has been shown to be assocviated with increased cardiovascular events.

Some people do not exhibit symptoms even though they are at risk. It is important to talk with a health care professional if you have any of the behavioral risks listed above. They will be able to plan lifestyle modifications in order to get your heart health back on track.