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Living Well

10 Tips for a Healthy Heart

Last updated: May 22, 2016

Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States. However, many of these deaths can be prevented with the proper precautions. Seth Jawetz, MD, a cardiologist at the Live Well Heart Failure Clinic at Summit Medical Group, offers ten tips to keep your heart healthy. 

1. Understand your risk

People who have high blood pressure or cholesterol, diabetes, are overweight, or have a history of smoking or cardiac conditions in their family are at an increased risk of developing heart disease. Men are more likely to develop cardiac issues after age 45, while the risk increases for women after menopause around age 55.

Dr. Jawetz’s tip: “Discuss any individual risk factors with your primary care physician at your annual physical. They may recommend you consult with a cardiologist or receive additional screenings.”

2. Go for regular checkups

If you have heart disease, see your doctor as recommended and do not skip appointments. You may find it helpful to write down a list of questions before your visit. If concerns arise between appointments, such as a new symptom or a change in medication, call your Summit Medical Group physician or cardiac case manager.

Dr. Jawetz’s tip: “I always try to offer reassurance for patients. Most people with heart disease can lead a relatively normal life if they keep on top of their health.”

3. Maintain a healthy weight

Packing on extra pounds can increase your risk for heart disease. If you are overweight or obese, try to lose weight by eating nutritious foods and exercising regularly. In particular, people who carry excess fat around their belly—a waist circumference of more than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men—are more likely to develop heart disease and diabetes.

Dr. Jawetz’s tip: “People who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. Losing weight takes strain off the heart, but it also can have a major impact on how you feel and the amount of energy you have.

4. Eat nutritious foods

Fill your plate with healthy foods, including lean proteins, such as chicken or fish, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Avoid meals that are high in salt, fat, cholesterol, and sugars. Processed meals, such as frozen dinners and takeout food, are often filled with salt. Ditch sugary drinks, such as soda and juice, which can increase your blood sugar levels and add extra calories. Nutritionists at Summit Medical Group can help you create individualized dietary plans.

Dr. Jawetz’s tip: “Do everything in moderation. If you can’t live without a piece of pizza, have it once a month. Do not try to eliminate it completely or you will end up binging on it.”

5. Stay active

Get moving at least five days a week for 30 minutes. Cardiovascular exercise is anything that keeps your heart pumping such as walking, swimming, or biking. Change your exercise routine so you do not get bored. Remember to get clearance from your physician before you start any new workout plan.

Dr. Jawetz’s tip: “It is essential to stay active. Even though it may be difficult to exercise the first month or so, if you do not move around now it will be harder in five years because you will lose more muscle mass.”

6. Reduce stress

Anxiety and depression can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle, which puts strain on the heart. Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or yoga, and leisure activities, like gardening or scrapbooking, can help reduce your stress level. Talk to your health care provider if you have prolonged feelings of sadness or worry.

Dr. Jawetz’s tip: “When patients are stressed they eat poorly and do not take care of themselves. We work with patients to identify what factors are playing a role in their stress level. Behavioral therapists and social workers are available to help patients cope with mental health issues.”   

7. Get enough sleep.  

Research shows that cutting back on your shuteye can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure. It can also lower your metabolism, making it harder to lose weight.  

Dr. Jawetz’s tip: “It is so simple, but patients often forget about the importance of getting a good night of sleep. Everyone is different, but most people need six to eight hours a night.”

8. Control your blood pressure

Partner with your physician to keep your blood pressure under control.

Typically, people should aim for a blood pressure of around 120/80. If you have high blood pressure, learn to check it at home.  

Dr. Jawetz’s tip: “The higher your blood pressure is, the harder your heart muscle works. If your heart muscle is weak, lower blood pressure can reduce the workload on the heart.”

9. Quit smoking

Lighting up can increase both your blood pressure and risk of blood clots, and reduce your exercise tolerance. Nearly one-third of all deaths from coronary heart disease are related to smoking and the effects of secondhand smoke.

Dr. Jawetz’s tip: “Smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death. Even if you have already developed heart disease, it is still greatly beneficial to quit smoking.”

10. Watch your cholesterol

High levels of cholesterol can cause fatty deposits called plaque to build up in the arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis. The arteries are a system of tubes that transport blood, oxygen, and other essential nutrients from the heart to the rest of the body. When blood does not flow freely, the heart muscle can become damaged. Reduce your cholesterol levels by limiting foods such as eggs, butter, red meat, cheese, and baked goods.

Dr. Jawetz’s tip: “While healthy adults can have their cholesterol checked every four to six years, people with heart disease, or those at a high risk of developing cardiac problems, should have their levels checked every year.”

References:

Interview with Seth Jawetz, MD
American Heart Association​
a. Smoking https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/QuitSmoking/QuittingSmoking/Smoking-Do-you-really-know-the-risks_UCM_322718_Article.jsp?appName=MobileApp

 

b. Cholesterol Guidelines http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/SymptomsDiagnosisMonitoringofHighCholesterol/How-To-Get-Your-Cholesterol-Tested_UCM_305595_Article.jsp

 

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