Did you know that heart disease doesn’t just affect older adults? It can happen at any age and half of all Americans have at least one of the top three factors for heart disease (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking habits). As this is the month of love and more of us are moving towards a more health-conscious lifestyle to combat weakened immune systems, we’d like to share some tips and tricks to keep a healthy heart.
Heart disease can actually refer to several types of heart conditions. When left unchecked, heart disease can lead to a wide array of serious and life-threatening health complications, including heart failure, stroke, heart attack, and death. A common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which affects the blood flow to the heart and increases the potential for a heart attack. A lot of times the buildup of plaque in the arteries, called atherosclerosis, can reduce blood flow to the heart or block arteries completely. This build-up is often caused by poor lifestyle choices such as smoking, poor diet, high stress, and lack of exercise.
Starting small is the best way to make a big impact on your overall health and can catapult you to start the journey of living a healthier lifestyle. Some of our simple recommendations include reducing sugar intake, eating more fruits and vegetables, and exercising regularly however, there are more factors that go into reducing your risk.
Quit Smoking: This is one of the most important things that you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease. Studies have shown that one year after quitting, your risk for developing heart disease is reduced in half. Smoking causes inflammation which promotes deposits of cholesterol in the arteries and may damage artery walls, increasing the risk of heart disease.
Heart Healthy Eating: Maintaining a healthy weight, controlling your blood sugar and cholesterol, and treating high blood pressure can help to reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Minimizing the amount of salt in your diet, avoiding alcohol, and balancing the calories you eat with your level of physical activity are all great ways to eliminate your risk factors.
Stay Active: Being physically inactive is almost as dangerous as smoking and high blood pressure when it comes to matters of the heart. It’s recommended that you get at least 150 minutes of physical activity every week. If exercising in the gym isn’t your thing, we suggest finding activities that you enjoy that will get you up and moving. If you work at a desk all day, find time to take 15-minute walks throughout the day or go for a long walk during lunch.
Regular Checkups: You should see your doctor once a year for your annual physical. If you have high blood pressure or cholesterol, consult your doctor on ways to lower your levels or if you need to use medication. Ask them for recommendations on good habits to form in order to keep yourself healthy longer.
As we bring this month of love to a close, make sure to take some extra time to take care of yourself and your heart. Starting with small daily changes now can have a big impact later on in life. We hope that when it comes to your heart you do everything you can to protect it. As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to your friends at the Carbondale Fire District.