February is American Heart Month! With Valentine’s Day landing in the middle of this month, it is a great time to think about your cardiovascular health.
Even in this time of COVID, heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States. When we think about heart disease, we usually think about Coronary artery disease. Cholesterol that our bodies make, and that we eat in our diet, migrate from our blood into the walls of our arteries. That cholesterol forms a plaque, which can narrow the blood vessels to the heart muscle. The narrowing is responsible for heart attacks and weakening of the heart muscle (Cardiomyopathy and Congestive Heart Failure). When the narrowing occurs in the arteries to the neck, they can cause a stroke.
The warning signs for a heart attack can be subtle, but recognizing these signs of disease coronary artery disease can save your life:
- Tightness or heaviness in the chest
- A discomfort in the jaw, shoulder, or arm
- Bad reflux/burping/nausea
- Shortness of breath
- Extreme fatigue
Trust your feelings. If you don’t feel right get checked!
Know your risk
The AHA has outlined seven risk factors that contribute to this deadly disease:
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
- Diabetes or Elevated Blood Glucose
- Sedentary Lifestyle
About half of all Americans (47%) have at least one of these key risk factors. Heart Disease is caused by a combination of genetic (inherited) and lifestyle (modifiable) factors.
What can you do?
No matter what your genetic history is, you can improve your chances of having a healthy heart with healthy lifestyle choices. Moderate exercise at least three times per week, and a well-balanced heart healthy diet can reduce your cholesterol and your blood pressure.
Learning to control portion sizes is a big step in the right direction, as is a diet high in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, plant-based proteins, lean animal proteins, and fish.
Avoiding some foods lowers your risk, including sweetened drinks (even so-called “diet” drinks), full-fat dairy products, processed carbohydrates, seed oils, and meats. Limit your sodium intake to 2000 mg per day.
Get up off the couch
You don’t have to be a triathlete to stay in good cardiovascular health. For adults, the Surgeon General recommends two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week – or 30 minutes 5 times per week. Walking is a great exercise. Any movement you can do helps. The CDC even has a program called DeskFit with exercises you can do right at your desk during your workday. Even a simple walk after dinner can work wonders for your digestion as well as your heart.
Most Medicare plans include a free gym membership, and that checks several of the boxes for maintaining both your mental and physical health as an older adult.
Talk to your doctor
Intermountain Health is home to dozens of cardiology specialists who offer a full spectrum of cardiovascular services, including screening for, assessing, and treating coronary artery disease, arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythm), and heart failure.
We have several clinics dedicated to your cardiovascular health in the Las Vegas area, including locations in Summerlin, Green Valley, La Canada, Sunset and Warm Springs.
*This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis from a physician or qualified healthcare professional.