Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in the United States. More people die or are disabled by heart attacks and strokes than any other diseases. So is there anything you can do about it? The answer is YES! Here a few helpful tips to minimize your risk and improve your health.
1. KNOW YOUR RISK
Do you know your cholesterol? How about your blood pressure? Are you diabetic? It’s the combination of risk factors that puts you at risk for having a heart attack or stroke. Your doctor, along with a simple blood test can help calculate the risk of you having a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years. Once you know your risk, you and your doctor can discuss ways to help minimize that risk over time.
2. EXERCISE NOW, BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE
If you are healthy enough to exercise, get moving! Thirty minutes of moderate physical activity can improve your heart health. If you have multiple medical problems, talk with your doctor about what exercise is right for you. If you are young, and without any major medical problems, you should engage in vigorous physical activity at least 2 hours a week or more, in addition to 30 minutes of daily moderate activity. No matter the age or medical problems, exercise helps.
3. GET RID OF THOSE BAD HABITS
If you smoke, STOP! Your doctor can help. If you are drinking more than 1-2 alcoholic beverages a day, or binge drinking on the weekends when out with friends, STOP! If you are eating a lot of calories right before bed, staying up late watching TV, not taking vacation days from work when appropriate, STOP! Most of us can identify what habits we have that we know aren’t good for us.
4. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
When you are exercising, listen to your body. If you are short of breath with minimal effort or experiencing chest pain or pressure, call your doctor and get seen right away. This may be a sign of a problem with your heart. Simple and safe testing can be done to ensure your heart is healthy enough for exercise. Don’t wait and think it will go away. See your doctor if you have symptoms!
5. AVOID FAD DIETS AND SUPPLEMENTS
A new diet that is “all-the-craze” seems to come out every couple of years and most of them fade away. That’s because they just don’t work long term, or might even be bad for you. One of the few diets that has actual cardiovascular benefits and has been extensively research in a rigorous and academic fashion, is the Mediterranean diet. It is less of a diet and more of a change in the way you eat and cook. Look it up online for more information. Other than that, avoid them. Also, there are no over-the-counter dietary supplements or essential oils on the market today that have ever been shown to have any benefits for the heart when they are rigorously tested. Being at a healthy weight is hard work and requires discipline and a plan. Talk to your doctor about what’s right for you.
5. SEE YOUR DOCTOR
A common thread in all these points, is to have good follow-up with your doctor. Your local cardiologist or primary care doctor can appropriately screen for cardiovascular disease. And that screening is not the same for every individual. It may be as simple as answering a few questions, but further testing may be required to assess your risk. Don’t wait. Call your doctor today and know your risk.