Cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks, heart failure, and strokes take more lives than cancer and respiratory disease combined. Heart disease is the number one killer in the U.S. and cardiovascular diseases are expected to double in the next ten years. But heart disease is not inevitable. You can prevent, reverse, or slow the progress of heart disease by making small but critical changes to your lifestyle. Awareness is the first step.
Your heart’s health is incredibly important to your overall wellness. Your heart is a muscle that regulates your body’s circulatory system, pumping fresh oxygenated blood to your organs, muscles, bones, and cells and carrying away carbon dioxide and waste. It responds to your body’s needs by pumping at faster rates while exercising or when under stress or at slower rates when you are relaxed or sleeping. Without a healthy heart, your ability to function is greatly impeded and your quality of life diminishes. Your heart needs you to take care of it, just as it takes care of you.
While there are risk factors that you may not be able to control such as your age or your family’s health history, you do have control over other factors that play a key role in your heart health. You can show your heart some love by following the American Heart Association’s ‘Life’s Simple 7’: quit smoking, incorporate physical activity, eat a healthy diet, maintain healthy body weight, and control your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. You have the ability to make changes to these 7 factors that can make a difference in your overall health and wellness.
First off, if you smoke you should work with your provider to quit. Smoking is one of the most taxing things you can do to your cardiovascular system. It also damages your lungs and causes cancer.
Second, make certain to exercise on a daily basis for at least 30 minutes a day. If you want to motivate yourself, work out with a buddy and/or purchase a fitness tracker to measure the amount of steps or exercise you complete on a daily basis.
Third, eat healthy food. Your diet plays a major role in your overall health. Avoid or minimize eating fast or junk food. Please work with your provider to find an appropriate diet for your health goals.
Your diet also plays a role in the fourth component of the Simple 7, maintaining healthy body weight. For every 20 pounds lost, your blood pressure drops by approximately 5-20 milligrams. Reducing your weight may seem difficult but you can work with your provider to set up a plan that will help you lose weight over time. Fad diets that promise instant weight loss will almost always be unsustainable and can be dangerous. Losing weight requires a lifestyle change.
Controlling cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar are critical for your cardiovascular health. By reducing cholesterol through diet and medication, you can potentially prevent damage to your cardiovascular system. Cholesterol is a waxy substance in your blood that can stick to the insides of your arteries and veins. This can cause blockages and contribute to heart attacks and strokes.
Lowering your blood pressure makes a huge difference for your health as well. When blood pressure remains elevated, it strains both the heart and your circulatory system, which can lead to strokes and heart attacks. High blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension, is considered a silent killer because there are often no signs that accompany it. Recent data shows that 46% of US adults have hypertension. You can work with your provider to reduce your blood pressure through the DASH diet, exercise, and if needed, medication. Reducing your cholesterol can also help lower your blood pressure.
Finally, high blood sugar contributes to the development of diabetes. High blood sugar damages blood vessels and can lead to heart attacks, heart failure, and strokes. Diabetes is a serious disease and it has profound effects on your heart and overall cardiovascular system. Getting your blood sugar under control if you have been diagnosed with diabetes, or preventing the development of diabetes, is critical to your heart health.
At Intermountain Health, we <3 hearts. Our myGeneration Clinic providers can work with our Intermountain Cardiology providers and you to help you reach your healthcare goals. Make 2021 the year in which you take charge of your health. Your heart loves you and you can show your heart love back by taking good care of it so that your heart can beat strong and allow you to live your healthiest life possible.