Posted June 24, 2021 by Charles A. Zonfa, MD, FACOG | Chief Medical Office
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). What’s more, about 103 million people today have high blood pressure and 6.5 million are living with heart failure.
The good news is you don’t have to be one of them. While genetics do play a role in cardiovascular disease, most risk factors can be prevented through heart-healthy choices, education and action.
So take your health to heart. Each step in the right direction not only can decrease your risk for heart disease, but also reduce your risk for other conditions and certain cancers. SummaCare offers 8 ways to love your heart and keep your ticker going strong for the long haul.
All fat is not created equal. Foods can contain healthy fats, which reduce your risk for heart disease, lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol, and unhealthy fats, which clog arteries, cause weight gain and increase your bad cholesterol. Limit saturated fats found in butter, high-fat meats and dairy products, and avoid trans fats found in prepackaged foods, margarines and fried fast foods. Instead, increase your intake of good fats that are found in salmon, nuts, seeds and vegetables.
Exercise is essential for a healthy heart. Just like you exercise to build muscle, exercising strengthens your heart. The AHA recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise (brisk walking, swimming or biking) or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (running or aerobics) each week. In addition, build movement into your everyday routines and take frequent breaks to stretch or walk if you work at a desk. Springtime weather has finally arrived and there is no better time than to get outside, enjoy the sunshine, and take a walk.
Being overweight puts a lot of strain on your heart, causing it to work harder. In fact, research shows extra belly fat correlates to higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Excess weight also increases your risk for diabetes, which can lead to heart disease.
It may be surprising to hear that sleep contributes to a healthy heart, but it’s true. Deep sleep allows your body to settle into periods of lowered blood pressure and heart rate, which gives your heart a rest. It also allows your blood pressure to regulate, restores the body and helps decrease stress. Sleep requirements vary by age, but the average adult should get seven to nine hours of sleep each night, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Keeping stress under control protects your heart. Stress increases cortisol, which can contribute to weight gain, and can affect blood pressure and cholesterol levels. What’s more, high stress can lead to unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking or overeating. So keep your stress in check with breathing exercises, meditation or even aromatherapy.
Most of us know smoking — and secondhand smoke — is bad for our lungs. But, what you may not know is it’s also bad for your heart. Chemicals in cigarette smoke lead to plaque buildup in the arteries and studies show they are a major cause for coronary heart disease, which can lead to heart attacks.
Strange, but true: Poor dental hygiene puts your heart health at risk. In other words, your teeth affect your ticker. Studies show a link between bacteria that causes gum disease and an increased risk of heart disease. So be sure to brush at least twice daily and floss every night to keep gum disease at bay.
Maintaining your heart-healthy numbers in a normal range plays a significant role in maintaining a strong heart. Critical heart-health numbers that should not be ignored include: blood pressure, resting heart rate, cholesterol, blood sugar and waist circumference. Learn the optimal numbers for your sex and age group and take steps to maintain them.