How Healthy is your Heart: February is American Heart Month

Written By, Chris Bauer M.D.

Has the pandemic left you with some bad habits and some added pounds? Does your New Year’s resolution involve a treadmill or an added focus on your health? Chances are you have already realized the importance having a healthy heart and its supportive health habits. Cardiovascular Disease is a term that describes any disease to the heart, its supporting vessels or peripheral veins in the body. The National Institute of Health reports that about 11% of Americans have been diagnosed with heart disease and that about 650,000 people die of heart diseases every year. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute have named February American Heart Month.

Coronary heart disease is any condition that can block the heart’s vessels and cause heart failure, stroke and peripheral artery disease. Heart disease is a general term that encompasses the previously stated conditions. Coronary heart disease happens when cholesterol, calcium, fat and protein (also known as atherosclerosis plaques) deposit in your arteries blocking blood flow in your heart. Atherosclerotic plaque buildup begins in childhood and worsens as we get older. If these plaques accumulate then in time, they may cause a person to have a heart attack.

Below are ways to prevent heart disease:

Increase Physical Activity: Weight reduction, improvement of cholesterol levels, lowering of blood pressure and reduction in risk of developing diabetes are all benefits of regular exercise.  Avoiding extended periods of inactivity is strongly encouraged. If you are binge watching your favorite television shows at home, try to walk-in place or do sit ups during commercials. The ways in which we become physically more active do not need to be elaborate. A gym membership is not necessarily required. Walking around the block and using the stairs at work instead of the elevators are excellent ways to get added physical activity. The recommendation is for all American adults to participate in 30 mins of moderate exercise (like walking) at least 5 times weekly. If 30 mins of uninterrupted exercise cannot be done at one time, then the sessions can be split up in smaller sessions of at least 10mins throughout the week.

Controlling Diet /Weight Management:  Obesity is a major issue in New Jersey, as it affects 1 in 3 Americans. Increased fast food consumption along with higher consumption of processed foods are dietary trends that have contributed to many people including children becoming obese. A reduction in daily sodium is strongly encouraged. Reading the labels on food packaging is an important way to know how much salt we are consuming. Canned soup, frozen dinners and pizza are popular foods that are considered to have the highest levels of salt. Less than 2400mg of sodium is recommended per day. Increased amounts of poultry, fish and low-fat dairy products should be the cornerstones of a healthy diet. 

Managing your Diabetes and other Medical Conditions:  Optimizing your glucose levels in those with diabetes has been shown to lower your risk of developing heart disease as well. Cholesterol management is also extremely important in lowering the risks of developing a heart attack or stroke.

Elimination of Smoking and Reduction of Alcohol in Lifestyle:  Smoking cessation is one of the most preventable ways to lower your risk of heart disease. If quitting smoking cold turkey is not something you can do, many excellent medications and separate therapies exist to assist people in quitting. Decreased alcohol use is a mainstay in the maintenance of a heart healthy lifestyle.

 

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