February is American Heart Month. Because heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women, everyone should take precautions to help in the fight of this fatal epidemic.
What is Heart Disease?
According to the American Heart Association®, heart disease (sometimes called cardiovascular disease) is a broad term used to describe numerous problems associated with plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries (otherwise known as Atherosclerosis). The plaque build-up hinders blood flow, and creates a risk for stroke or heart attack. Heart disease also includes other ailments, such as irregular heart beat (arrhythmia), heart valve issues, and heart failure.
While there are some genetic factors linked to heart disease, you can take precautions to lower your risk of developing heart problems. These ten tips have been shown to help in the fight of heart disease:
1. Talk with your Health Care Provider
You and your doctor can work together to help prevent and/or treat the medical conditions that lead to heart disease. You should regularly discuss your treatment plan and prepare for your appointments by bringing a list of questions.
2. Eat a Healthy Diet
Make good nutritional choices. Select a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and make sure to decrease your intake of processed foods and saturated fats. Choose low-cholesterol, high-fiber foods often. Limit your sodium intake, as it can increase blood pressure.
3. Lose Excess Weight
Carrying extra weight can increase your risk for heart disease. Knowing your Body Mass Index (BMI) is critical, as it indicates whether or not your weight is within a healthy range. Determine your BMI and if necessary, discuss weight-loss options with your doctor.
4. Know Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, sometimes called a “silent killer,” has no symptoms. Have your blood pressure checked on a regular basis; if you have high blood pressure, talk with your doctor about ways to lower it.
5. Increase Physical Activity
Regular exercise has numerous health benefits, including lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and assisting in weight loss. Participating in moderate-intensity exercise for 30 minutes per day is a great way to help fight heart disease.
6. Monitor Your Cholesterol
Have your cholesterol checked once every five years (at a minimum). High cholesterol can lead to plaque build-up and heart disease.
7. Stop Smoking
Cigarette smoke greatly increases your risk for heart disease, so quitting is extremely beneficial in the fight against heart disease. Talk with your doctor about the ways to quit smoking.
8. Limit Alcohol Use
Drinking alcohol can raise your blood pressure, so limit your weekly intake to no more than one drink per day.
9. Manage Your Diabetes
Diabetics should watch their blood sugar levels to make sure they remain in a safe range. Ask your doctor about other precautions diabetics should take to help fight heart disease.
10. Take your Medicine
If you have been prescribed medication to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, make sure to take it. Always follow your doctor’s instructions carefully, and call if you have any questions.
Heart disease is a serious matter. For more information on heart disease and prevention, contact our Cardiology department at the Medical Center of McKinney at (972) 547-8000, or visit us online.