If you live a healthy lifestyle, you’re more likely to have a healthy heart. Heart health correlates closely to your overall health. In the spirit of February being named American Heart Month, a time to raise awareness of how to aim for heart health, here are 10 ways to do just that.
If you’re a smoker, you’re 2-4 times more likely to get coronary artery disease than people who don’t smoke. If you do get coronary artery disease, your risk of death from the disease is 70% higher than that of nonsmokers.
Monitor your blood pressure
Blood pressure that’s consistently high over a period of time can lead to stroke or heart attack. Age increases your risk of high blood pressure, but other factors play a major role also. If you’re overweight, obese, eat a lot of salty, processed foods, and are physically inactive, you’re at a greater risk.
You’ll get your blood pressure checked at each wellness appointment at our Internal Medicine & Pediatric Clinic. If your blood pressure is high and isn’t controlled by making lifestyle changes you and your doctor set out, you may be put on medication.
Know your cholesterol score
Cholesterol is a fatty substance within your body. When you produce too much of it, it turns into a material called plaque, which narrows the vessels carrying blood to your heart. This process, often called “hardening of the arteries,” can lead to a heart attack.
We give adults a baseline cholesterol test to determine cholesterol levels. A good total score is 200 or lower. If your test is normal, you’ll get retested every 4-6 years. If it’s higher than 240 over a number of months, your doctor is going to likely recommend medication to lower it.
You’ll be retested annually unless you have other risk factors for heart disease, in which case you may get checked more frequently.
Get enough good quality sleep
Getting enough sleep — especially quality sleep — is one key to heart health. There’s a reason why experts say getting seven hours of sleep is important.
Studies indicate that those who sleep for seven hours have less calcium in their arteries than those who sleep five hours or less. If calcium develops, it indicates damage caused by narrowing of the arteries leading to the heart, a condition called atherosclerosis.
Monitor and manage diabetes
If you have diabetes, you’re more at risk for heart disease, and your chances of having a heart attack or stroke are greater than those of people in the overall population. High blood sugar over a period of time harms blood vessels leading to your heart.
Managing your diabetes means monitoring and controlling your blood sugar levels, your blood pressure, and your cholesterol, and living a healthy lifestyle.
Get enough exercise
Being physically inactive is a risk factor for heart disease. Walking is a simple activity that doesn’t cost money, and it’s great for your health. Incorporate a daily walk around your neighborhood into your schedule or add breaks into your workday to get some exercise. Thirty to sixty minutes a day lowers blood pressure and blood sugar.
Maintain a healthy weight
Obesity and being overweight are risk factors for heart disease. Changing your eating habits and getting regular exercise helps to control weight.
Instead of opening that plastic package of processed chips, how about taking a couple of apples with you to work as a snack? Eating a lot of saturated fats leads to obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure — all risk factors for heart disease.
Too much alcohol raises your blood pressure and can harm your heart muscle, leading to a condition called cardiomyopathy. Binge drinking can cause arrhythmias and death. Drinking any alcohol can be dangerous if you’ve been diagnosed with heart failure.
Protect your mental health
If you suffer from depression, get help; depression is a risk factor for heart disease. People without a support system are also at increased risk.
Stress may contribute to high blood pressure, and it can lead to unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, drinking, and overeating that are risk factors for heart disease. Find ways to relieve your stress — try meditation, mindfulness exercises, physical exercise, or engage in hobbies you enjoy.
For expert health care for you and your family, call or book an appointment online with us at Internal Medicine & Pediatric Clinic in New Albany, Mississippi.