Small changes can prevent heart disease
Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women, responsible for about one-fourth of all deaths in the United States each year, and a major cause of disability.
During Heart Health month in February, we like to take the time to remind people that small changes in diet, lifestyle and other habits can have a big impact on heart disease.
Heart disease deaths have fallen 28 percent in recent years; the American Heart Association attributes much of the decline to changes in risk factors such as smoking and cholesterol levels and advances in treatment options.
Your heart disease risk factors are conditions, behaviors and other factors such as family history that raise your risk of heart disease and heart attack. If you already have a heart disease diagnosis, they increase the chance that your condition will worsen.
The more risk factors you have, the greater your chances of having heart disease or a heart attack. While there is nothing we can do about our age, gender and family history, we can control many other risk factors.
What can you do? Your first step to prevent heart disease is making healthy lifestyle choices. Here are six that can dramatically reduce your risk.
Eat a healthy diet: It should include plenty of fruits and vegetables, foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and foods high in fiber. You should also limit your sodium intake.
Maintain a healthy weight: You can visit our website (ohiohealth.com/calculatebmi) to calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) that determines a health weight range. Abdominal fat recently has been identified as an independent risk factor.
Exercise: The Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes of moderate intensity on most days during the week.
Stop smoking: The American Heart Association identifies cigarette smoking as the most important cause of preventable death in the United States.
Limit alcohol consumption: While research has shown that one or two drinks a day has a protective benefit, drinking too much increases blood pressure.
Have regular checkups: You should have your cholesterol checked once every five years, and your blood pressure checked regularly. If you have diabetes, it is important to keep your blood sugar levels under control. No matter what your condition, always take any medication as prescribed.
Blockages from the buildup of fat and cholesterol deposits in the coronary arteries cause a heart attack. Warning signs include pain/discomfort in the chest, or in other areas of the body such as one or both arms, neck, jaw or stomach.
Studies have shown that women having heart attacks are less likely to present chest pain/discomfort — the hallmark symptom in men — and more likely to experience other common symptoms such as shortness of breath, weakness, unusual fatigue, nausea, vomiting and pain/discomfort in the neck, jaw or stomach.
In celebration of Heart Health month, OhioHealth has created a Facebook application called “Heartbeats to Health” that enables you to earn credits for heart healthy activities. For every heart healthy choice you record on the page, OhioHealth will donate $1 up to $10,000 to the American Heart Association. Start now by visiting OhioHealth.com/heartbeats to learn more about what you can do to improve your heart health and participate in the Facebook program.
Dr. Abraham C. Parail is a board-certified interventional cardiologist with HeartCare and an active member of the Grady Memorial Hospital medical staff. OhioHealth is a proud local sponsor of American Heart Association Go Red for Women.