Tip #1: Know your personal risk factors for heart disease
If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, or you have a family history of heart disease, then you fall into the category of people at risk. About 50% of the population fall into this category.
Knowing your risk factors and how to manage them is the first step in preventing heart disease. A diet high in fats is a major contributing factor. So, cutting down on fried foods, processed foods, and saturated fats is the first step in your heart disease prevention quest.
In a nutshell, lead a healthy lifestyle, avoid heart disease, and beat your illness by doing the following:
- Maintain your ideal weight.
- Manage your blood pressure.
- Control your blood sugar.
- Control your blood fats.
- Exercise regularly.
- Quit smoking.
- Lose weight.
- Increase your intake of dietary fiber.
- Limit sodium.
Tip #2: Don’t miss your appointments
When it comes to a weakened heart, the most important thing that you can do is to make your cardiologist appointments. This may seem simple, but it’s actually the most crucial factor.
Your physical response to treatments can become significantly better if you stick to them. If you’re not seeing results from the treatment, your doctor may also prescribe a different treatment.
All the tests and treatments may seem very overwhelming at first, but your heart will be thankful for it in the long run.
Tip #3: Take all medications as prescribed
By your doctors.
We’re probably all guilty of not taking our medications like we’re supposed to. There’s that “head-in-the-sand” feeling that comes with lots of medications that just seem to make things worse.
It’s true, some medications don’t work well, and they make you feel worse before they make you feel better. There are very few heart medicines that feel good. Most of the time, you just have to tough it out.
You’ll notice that I mentioned “all” medications. If you’re on a medication that’s supposed to heal or make you feel better, you must take it exactly as prescribed by your doctor.
Tip #4: Watch your weight
If you’re overweight, losing weight is one of the best things you can do for your heart. When you are carrying too much weight, your heart has to work harder to pump blood to keep you alive, which can cause it to grow larger and beat harder. Losing the weight reduces stress on your heart.
You can get started on your heart-healthy weight-loss plan by allotting time to exercise each day. If you have no time to exercise, you can take up walking.
If you can, you can increase your activity level and lose more weight. If not, you can maintain your activity level and still lose weight. A good target for heart-healthy weight loss is losing about 1 pound (0.5 kilogram) per week. This means that for most people, it will take about a year to lose the pounds that are making them overweight.
Tip #5: Get enough exercise
Let’s start with a very basic yet very effective heart booster: exercise. Make time for some vigorous exercise at least 3 times a week for 20-30 minutes each time. Go for a walk, take a brisk stroll or play some tennis or racquetball.
Walking is one of the most affordable means of exercise, and it’s easy to make it heart-friendly. Let me explain: as you walk, your knees bend and straighten. If you kick your legs out to the side as you walk, you’re putting the heart and other major blood vessels into the type of full range of motion that provides the most effective exercise. You should also make sure that you incorporate quick walks to speed, which gives you a great cardio workout.
When you’re starting out, alternate between walking and jogging; don’t add jogging until your walking speed has increased to at least 5 miles per hour. This is important because if you stop and run abruptly, you are more susceptible to experiencing heart palpitations and shortness of breath.
Tip #6: Eat a heart-healthy diet
You can minimize your risk of heart disease by keeping your blood vessels healthy. Your heart doesn’t pump blood to all of your body, your blood vessels do. While the exact cause of heart disease doesn’t have an obvious reason, high cholesterol, obesity, and high blood pressure can all damage your blood vessels. That damage makes it hard or impossible for blood to flow through your body. And that can lead to heart problems.
This is why watching your diet is important to your heart health. Saturated fat is known to clog up arteries, which forms plaque. The ideal amount is limited to 10% of your daily calories. Just a few teaspoons of olive oil per day or one egg can fulfill that requirement. Monounsaturated fats reduce your risk of heart disease by lowering your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
You can also maintain a healthy diet with foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, sardines, and walnuts. These fats are found in certain types of fish. Omega-3 fatty acids may also help keep your blood pressure under control, preventing your body from beating around the bush (pun intended!) on the blood flow.
Tip #7: Know your numbers
One of the most important reasons to be your own health advocate is to keep an eye on your heart health numbers. At the very least, any man or woman over 21 should have their blood pressure and cholesterol checked, but other important factors are blood sugars, immune system health, and bone density. Starting at age 50, additional tests should be considered including a full-body MRI, echocardiogram, lipid panel, and dental exam.
Checking your numbers every six months is a good idea. Often you can make changes with diet or exercise and the doctor will not need to put you on a drug. Stay away from statins and medications unless your doctor recommends them. Another option is to lose weight. This is very important in adding years to your life.
Key Measurements for Heart Health
Simply put, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. In fact, 166,000 Americans die each year due to cardiovascular disease alone, and 1 out of every 4 deaths are caused by heart disease.
This is why determining the health of your heart is vital to your overall wellbeing. There are three main factors that can help determine your heart’s health:
> Family History of Heart Disease
Regarding the total cholesterol and HDL values, it’s important to note that these measurements may not be indicators of cholesterol levels that will affect your risk of heart disease. This is because they are only snapshots that may not tell you about your cholesterol’s overall history.
Tip #8: Quit smoking
Second-hand smoke is bad for people who are healthy and can make a condition like heart failure even worse. Getting a strong heart means keeping it clean. And quitting smoking is one of the easiest ways to do that.
The most important reason for quitting smoking is to reduce the harm to your heart. Even if you have blocked arteries or heart failure, your heart will have an easier time pumping blood around your body if you quit.
If you are undergoing treatment for smoking cessation, this is particularly important since four out of five people who die while taking part in treatment for smoking cessation die of cardiovascular disease.
Stopping smoking isn’t easy, and quitting with a strong heart doesn’t happen over night. Quitting takes persistence, but most smokers can successfully quit.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have an online cessation guide with helpful resources to support your quit-attempt, including a tracking tool that will enable you to see how many days in a row you’ve stayed smoke-free.
Tip #9: Check for fluid build-up
When you’re in the midst of a heart attack, your heart muscle cells are suffering from pain even if you can’t feel it. In severe cases, the heart muscle can even die. The after effects of a heart attack depend on how quickly the heart attack is treated.
If you’re having chest pain and are worried about your heart, you probably want to rule out a heart attack first before a doctor confirms your worst fears. You can do this by checking your body for signs and symptoms of a heart attack.
One of the most common signs of a heart attack is an uneven fluid build-up caused by swelling. You may or may not know, however, that there are different types of swelling that can occur depending on the problem. When there is swelling caused by fluid, it’s referred to as left ventricular hypertrophy or an enlarged heart. This type of swelling needs to be treated with medication and lifestyle changes to prevent another heart attack.
Tip #10: Know the signs of an emergency
If you suspect that you may be about to have a heart attack, it’s important to act quickly. Since you’ll most likely have signs and symptoms for hours or days before the attack, it’s important to know what to do to help yourself in those hours or days.
Sometimes you need to be your own best doctor. You know your body better than any doctor, so make sure you’re well informed so you can identify your own symptoms and know when to seek help.
Some symptoms can go away on their own, while others are cause for a heart attack alert. Here’s a list of the symptoms that require an emergency visit to the doctor. Make sure you know which symptoms are worth an emergency room visit.
- Chest pain
- Sudden shortness of breath
- Pain in the arm, back, jaw or neck
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sleepiness, confusion or feeling faint
If you’ve had a history of heart problems or stroke, talk to your doctor about which signs and symptoms you should watch out for. Do whatever it takes to get your doctor on the phone, and then, get yourself immediately to the ER.