February News: Heart Healthy Living

February is American Heart Month

Cardiologist talking with heart patient in the doctor's office.

Discuss heart health with your doctor at regular checkups.

Heart disease is a big problem. It is the leading cause of death in Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) approximately 655,000 Americans die each year from heart disease. About one in four deaths is due to heart disease due in part to some of peoples’ lifestyle choices of modern-day life.

What Is Heart Disease?

Heart disease refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type is high blood pressure. But coronary artery disease, often referred to as high cholesterol, is also a very common problem for many. These conditions can worsen and cause heart attack. People also have problems with stroke, angina, congestive heart failure, peripheral artery disease and heart arrhythmias.

What Is Heart Healthy Living?

If you are age 65 or older and male, African American and have a family history of heart attack, you are at increased risk over other groups. Family history, race, sex and age are risk factors you cannot control. But there are other factors that you can control.

Senior Couple Smiling

Often, a happy heart is a healthy heart!

Lifestyle choices can affect you heart health. These are choices you make about what you eat, how much exercise you get and whether you choose to smoke or drink alcohol.

February is also Senior Independence Month…take care of your heart health and you will keep your independence!

Your Emotions and Your Heart

Is it a myth to die of a broken heart? Have you ever had a “racing heart” when you were excited? Or did you ever feel your heart beating up into your throat when you were frightened or frustrated? Negative emotions like frustration, stress, fear and even depression can be bad for the heart and lead to heart disease. Some research has suggested that three things can be particularly healthy for our hearts:

Gratitude. Make a list daily of all the things you are thankful for. Doing this regularly has a real effect on the smoothness and rhythm of the heartbeat.

Laughter. Watch comedies on TV, read the comic strip, and hang out with fun people who have a good sense of humor.

Connection. People with little social interaction have been shown to have higher rates of heart disease. Get out, find a group, take a class, call an old friend – your heart will be lighter.

Good Lifestyle Choices

Be Fit

  • Physical activity can reduce heart disease. It helps promote blood flow to tissue and organs. This means at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Like all muscles, your heart benefits from physical activity. Exercise also improves balance, and coordination, strengthens bones and muscles, builds confidence and can help you lose weight.
    Group of seniors cycling in a spinning class

    Cycling is very good for cardiovascular health.

    Activities like gardening, housekeeping, taking the stairs and walking the dog all count. Be sure to check with a healthcare professional before starting an exercise regimen. AW can help. Our physical therapists can help launch a safe exercise program tailored just for you. Call us. (314) 330-7992

Stop Smoking

  • Nicotine is highly addictive, so quitting can be extremely difficult.  Set a “stop date” and tell your doctor that you want to quit.

Manage Your Stress

  • Stress is a normal part of life, but in times of continued stress your brain is constantly sounding the “fight or flight” alarm. This can result in problems like high blood pressure. If you have trouble managing stress, seek your doctor’s assistance.

Eat A Heart Healthy Diet

  • Your diet should include a variety of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, poultry and fish, nuts and legumes, and non-tropical oils. Watch your portion sizes, limit your salt intake, cut back on refined sugars, and avoid foods containing trans fats, ie. partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Fresh or fresh-frozen foods are best!

    Fresh vegetables are part of a heart-healthy diet.

  • Watch your numbers. Get regular check-ups to monitor health conditions that affect the heart including blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes and make sure they’re under control with medication. If you haven’t had your cholesterol checked lately, let us know. We can help you get these important checks done conveniently for you. Call us: (314) 330-7992.

Eat Less Salt

You may have heard that you should eat less salt, but why? Too much salt causes your body to retain water, which creates an added burden on your heart. Salt hides in foods and drinks that you might not expect. For instance, soup and bread each have high salt content. Be sure to check your food and drink packages carefully. You should speak to your doctor about what your mg/day salt intake should be.

What Are Omega 3’s?

Omega 3 Fatty Acids are polyunsaturated fats that help keep your lungs, heart, blood vessels and immune system healthy. Omega 3’s are naturally found in fish oil, fatty fish, flaxseed oil, walnuts and and also in meat, eggs and dairy foods. Omega 3’s may decrease triglycerides (fat in the blood), lower blood pressure slightly, reduce blood clotting, decrease stroke and heart failure risk and reduce irregular heartbeats. Some people take these as supplements for heart health.

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

Is your body getting the oxygen it needs to function properly? If you have CHF the heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should and oxygen is not getting through the body. Symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, swollen legs and rapid heartbeat.

How Can I Live Better With CHF?

  • Treatments can include eating less salt (no more than 1,500 to 2,400 mg per day), limiting fluid intake, and taking prescription medications. In some cases a defibrillator or pacemaker may be implanted.
  • Aerobic activity for 20-30 minutes 5 days a week improves cardiovascular health.
  • Don’t smoke and if you do, quit!
  • Losing weight can improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of complications related to obesity.

    Woman's feet stepping onto the scale.

    Losing weight can improve cardiovascular health.

Coronary Artery Disease

CAD is often called hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis. The arteries give the heart vital oxygen and nutrients. When your body has too much LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol, it can build up on the walls of your blood vessels. This buildup is called “plaque.” As your blood vessels build up plaque over time, the insides of the vessels narrow. When this happens, it’s harder for blood to flow through, potentially causing a clot. If a blood clot forms, it can stop blood flow and cause a heart attack or stroke.

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