Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States? Statistics show that more than 600,000 American dies of heart disease each year With that being said though, there are several ways we can ensure a healthy heart. Although heart disease is common, it can be prevented by taking precautions that keep our heart beating strong.
Know Your Health Factors
Certain factors such as age and heredity cannot be controlled, but understanding the factors you can control can help you make positive changes. Some factors you can control include:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Lack of exercise
- Obesity and extra weight
What Is High Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the measure of the force created when the heart pumps blood into your blood vessels, which then carry the blood to your organs and tissues. Many factors can affect your blood pressure reading and make it fall above (hypertension) or below (hypotension) the accepted range. Being aware of your blood pressure and monitoring is key in ensuring optimum cardiovascular health. Hypertension results when the heart is working harder than normal. This can happen when blood vessels are restricted or tightened. Think of it as water flowing through a hose – the narrower the hose, the more force will be required for water (your blood) to pass through. The extra stress this causes on the heart can lead to serious health problems, and if left untreated can result in damage to the kidneys, brain, and eyes, as well as to the heart. Blood pressure is measured as systolic pressure/diastolic pressure.
- Systolic pressure is the pressure when your heart is pumping.
- Diastolic pressure is the pressure when your heart is filling with blood.
Normal blood pressure is 120/80. Pre-hypertension is when the numbers fall between 120-139/80-89. If any of your numbers consistently fall above 140/90 then you may have high blood pressure and you may need to visit your healthcare practitioner. The above range for normal blood pressure is the standard that many physicians go by but at the same time, depending on your family history and current health state, suitable numbers for you may vary.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made in the liver and other cells and found in certain foods, such as dairy products, eggs, and meat. The body needs some cholesterol to function properly, but only a limited amount. Too much cholesterol consumption can lead to a buildup in the blood vessels, which can result in hypertension (high blood pressure). The different types of cholesterol include:
Low-density lipoprotein often referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol, this is the kind that can stick to your arteries and clog them, causing heart disease. The lower your LDL levels, the better.
High-density lipoprotein, sometimes called ‘good’ cholesterol, serves to protect your heart.t. HDL helps transport your LDL for metabolism and excretion and thus, the higher your HDL levels, the better.
Excess calories, sugars, and fats we consume are converted by our bodies into triglycerides, a type of fat that is present in the blood. These triglycerides are then stored in our fat cells for later use as energy. If there are high levels of triglycerides in the blood, this can put you at risk for heart disease.
When taking all the above factors into consideration, it is important to remember to take a look at the overall picture. Experts recommend that men aged 35 and older and women age 45 and older be routinely screened for lipid disorders. You should ask your doctor about having cholesterol blood check to see how your numbers stand. Below is a list of references for normal cholesterol levels.
6 Steps Towards A Healthy Heart
Like we said before, it is not impossible to ensure a healthy cardiovascular system and taking the following simple steps while being health-conscious is a great way to maintain a healthy heart.
Maintain A Healthy Weight
A low-fat diet combined with exercise can help lower LDL and raise HDL cholesterol. Lowering your cholesterol means healthier arteries and a healthier heart. Also, remember to test your cholesterol regularly.
Eat A Diet Rich In Fruits And Veggies
Manage stress and avoid tobacco to reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure. High blood pressure puts a strain on your heart as it does its work. Unfortunately, hypertension is not portrayed in physical symptoms and therefore, it is harder to pick up on unless you remember to take your blood pressure on a regular basis.
If you are already a smoker ask your doctor or pharmacist about nicotine replacement, counseling and other methods to help you drop the habit. Smokers are at doubled risk of heart-related diseases. The good news is individuals who manage to kick the habit can eventually lower their heart health risks to the levels of non-smokers.
Get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. If you aren’t already regularly exercising it’s OK to start slow. Even 10 minutes at a time can offer benefits as exercise improves oxygen flow to the heart and makes it stronger over time.
Limit Your Sugar Intake
Choose a diet low in sugars and fat. Added with regular exercise, a healthy diet can help maintain a healthy weight and a healthy heart.
Visit Your Health Expert Frequently
Diabetes dramatically increases the risk of developing heart disease, even if glucose levels are maintained. But the risks are greater if it is not well controlled. If you have diabetes be sure to get regular checkups with your doctor to manage the condition.
Know The Warning Signs
Many of the signs of heart problems are insidious – they don’t show up until a problem actually occurs. Be aware of certain signs that may mean you need immediate treatment.
A heart attack occurs when the blood vessels supplying blood to the heart get blocked. This leads to the heart not getting enough oxygen, which can result in the heart getting damaged, or stopping completely. Some heart attacks are sudden and intense. Ironically they start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort and often people experiencing these symptoms aren’t sure what’s happening and wait too long to seek help. Some of the signs that the discomfort could possibly be a heart attack include:
- Pressure, squeezing, and pain in the center of the chest that lasts for a few minutes and goes away and comes back
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
- Cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness
Remember, men and women commonly feel pain in the chest. But women are more likely than men to experience other symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, back or jaw pain. If you or anyone you’re with experiences any of the above symptoms do not wait longer than a few minutes to call 911 and seek immediate medical attention.
Unlike a heart attack, a stroke is when the supply of oxygen to the brain gets interrupted. Warning signs can include:
- Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm, leg, or especially one side of the body
- Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Trouble seeing from one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance and coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
If you or someone you know have any of these signs please do not delay! Call 911 immediately.
Get Healthy At Any Age
Children and teens can start early by getting at least one hour of moderate to
vigorous physical activity a day. Men
and women in their 20’s should start keeping an eye on their blood pressure and
should be aware of their family history to know their risks. Once in their 30’s
many people will benefit from managing the stresses in their life and knowing
that it’s important to take care of themselves no matter how busy life gets. In
your 40’s consider getting routine blood glucose checkups. Manage your busy
schedule by squeezing in exercise with little changes, like taking the stairs
instead of the elevator. For those 50 and over remember to age actively! Ask
your doctor about aspirin therapy and try to reduce the amount of salt in your
worry about the past, and remember it’s never too late to make some change and
adopt healthy habits!