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Monday, February 20, 2017

7 Tips to take care of your heart


Valentines are one way to share loving sentiments, but as a doctor, I have another suggestion for how to show your love this month: encourage your loved ones to take care of their hearts and take care of your own.

Coronary artery disease (CAD), the most common type of heart disease, is the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S. CAD occurs when fatty deposits, known as plaque, build up in coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to your heart. This is known as atherosclerosis. As the plaque builds, it restricts blood and oxygen supply to the heart, which can lead to chest pains (angina) or a heart attack. Common risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, diabetes, cigarette smoking, inactivity and obesity.

Coronary artery disease is distinct from other heart diseases, such as cardiomyopathy — weakened heart muscles — and structural heart diseases such as holes in the heart or valve problems. It is also something we can prevent: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that at least 200,000 deaths from heart disease and stroke each year are preventable. More than half of those preventable heart disease and stroke deaths happen to people under age 65.

Below, seven habits that can help prevent coronary artery disease and lead to a healthier heart:

1. Eat a heart-healthy diet: Limit sweets, red meat, and processed foods such as snack foods, lunch meats and canned soups, and eliminate sugar-sweetened drinks. Reach instead for vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meat and poultry, fish, legumes, oils and nuts. The American Heart Association recommends less than 2,300 milligrams per day, and much less if you already have certain chronic conditions. Switch your chocolate choice to dark chocolate, which — in moderation, of course — is good for your heart.

It is also important to know your cholesterol level and have your medical provider advise you if diet, exercise, or medications called statins are needed to adjust your cholesterol levels. Having a family history of early age heart attacks in parents or siblings increases your risk of heart disease and factors into whether statin medications are recommended.

2. Exercise: Walking is one simple way to lower your chance of heart disease, or choose the activity that suits you best. The key is to do it regularly. The American Heart Association recommends that adults get 150 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. Even if you exercise in short, 10-20 minute sessions, you can add them up to reach these goals. To lower your blood pressure or cholesterol, aim for 40-minute sessions of moderate to vigorous activity three to four times a week. You could do this by walking 2 miles briskly (about 4 mph). If that's too fast, choose a more comfortable pace. Walking briskly for 30 minutes per day can reduce your risk of heart attack by one-third. Remember to make fitness fun and choose activities that combine exercise and socializing such as yoga, water aerobics, dancing and cycling.

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3. Maintain a healthy weight: Eating well and exercising can help with weight loss, which is important because obesity is another risk factor for heart disease. Obesity can raise blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels and lower "good" HDL cholesterol, which is linked with higher heart disease and stroke risk. It can increase blood pressure and risk of diabetes. Have a test for diabetes if you are at risk for diabetes. Having uncontrolled diabetes can damage arteries and is a major risk factor for coronary artery disease.

4. Practice stress relief: Researchers have found links between stress and coronary artery disease. It is not known if those links are because of how we act in response to stress — such as overeating, smoking, and drinking, for instance — or if they are a result of hormones such as adrenaline that are released during periods of stress. Exercise and healthy eating are good ways to cope with stress. Other ways include practicing positive self-talk: Instead of focusing on the negative, practice telling yourself more positive messages, such as “‘l’ll do the best I can,” and “I can do this one step at a time.” Consider trying meditation, prayer, gentle yoga, knitting, tai chi or another practice that allows you to slow down and relax.

5. Maintain your friendships and reach out to new friends: Researchers have been studying the health benefits of maintaining supportive friendship networks, and studies suggest those who maintain those ties have fewer health problems and live longer. Some research indicates that healthy social ties lower stress levels, important to a healthy heart. If you can combine other good habits, such as exercise, with social interaction, you’re practicing two healthy habits at once.

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6. Avoid tobacco products: Smoke isn’t just bad for your lungs, it’s bad for your heart and the rest of your cardiovascular system. Even secondhand smoke is toxic, so stay away from smoke, and raise your kids in a smoke-free environment. Twelve months after quitting, your increased risk of dying from heart disease will be half that of a continuing smoker.

7. Limit alcohol consumption: If you drink alcohol, consume in moderation. Maximum healthy limits for alcohol use for men under 65 is 14 standard drinks per week with a limit of four drinks in any one day. For women, the recommendation is a maximum of seven drinks per week with a limit of three drinks per day. Regular or high alcohol use can raise blood pressure and lead to a weakened heart muscle, known as cardiomyopathy.

At a preventative or wellness visit, your medical provider is likely to give you advice to lower your risk of developing coronary artery disease by reviewing your health history, family history, exercise and dietary habits and checking your blood pressure. Your provider may also discuss labs for cholesterol and diabetes screening. Taking an 81-miligram coated aspirin is often recommended starting at age 50 and may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. If you have not seen your provider to discuss your risk of CAD, consider making an office visit to talk about risk reduction. It’s never too late to take better care of your heart.


1 comment:

  1. Despite the fact that fruits are not far from my reach, most of the times, i just feel like not consuming them..
    Friendship is amazing, as it also helps to reduce depression.

    ReplyDelete

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