American Heart Month is a great time to take a closer look at your heart health. Knowing your risk factors and making simple lifestyle changes can greatly improve your risk of developing heart disease.
“Heart disease is preventable. Taking steps to incorporate a heart-healthy lifestyle can greatly improve your overall heart health and dramatically reduce your risk of heart disease,” explains Rajesh Mohan, MD, a cardiologist on staff at Kimball Medical Center. “Several risk factors can contribute to whether or not you develop heart disease.”
Risk factors for heart disease include: gender, family history, age, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, physical inactivity and diabetes.
A significant and modifiable risk factor is high blood pressure. “The only way to know if you’re at risk is to have your blood pressure checked on a regular basis,” says Dr. Mohan. Normal blood pressure readings are generally around 120/80. High blood pressure is usually controllable with lifestyle changes and medication.
In addition to high blood pressure, other modifiable risk factors for heart disease include high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, physical inactivity and diabetes. In order to reduce these risk factors for heart disease, Dr. Mohan recommends the following heart-healthy tips:
· Know your cholesterol level. Have your cholesterol checked annually. If your cholesterol is 200 or above, consider adopting a low-fat diet and increasing your activity level. Pay particular attention to your LDL or your “bad cholesterol” level and talk to your doctor about how to reduce your numbers.
· Quit Smoking. According to the American Heart Association, smokers may be up to four times more likely to develop heart disease compared to nonsmokers.
· Watch your weight. Being overweight significantly increases your risk of developing heart disease. In fact, the heavier you are, the higher your risk. Losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can help reduce your risk for heart disease.
· Eat heart-healthy foods. Your diet has a major impact on your risk for developing heart disease. Reduce greasy, fried and fatty foods, and limit red meat in your diet. Increase fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats such as poultry and seafood, and add foods that are high in fiber.
· Increase physical activity. Exercise helps make your heart stronger, more efficient and improves circulation. It also helps control other risk factors including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
· Keep blood sugar under control. If you have diabetes, chronic high blood sugar can narrow your arteries and increase your risk for heart disease. People with diabetes also tend to have lower levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and increased levels of triglycerides (blood fats), adding to the risk for heart disease.
“Heart disease and stroke pose a major health threat for millions of Americans,” says Dr. Mohan. “However, there are many ways to reduce our risk factors and prevent heart disease. It is never too early and never too late to start taking care of your heart. Becoming aware of your risk factors and making healthy lifestyle changes can make a huge impact on your heart health in the future,” he adds. TLS-PR.