Written By: Megan DeLuca, MEd, CPT
PTS Fitness Blogger
Get a Risk Assessment and Know Your Numbers!
Most people are dangerously unaware of how much their age, genetics and lifestyle choices affect their heart health. Assessing your risk of a heart attack is the single most important thing you can do right now. Schedule a yearly check-up with your primary care physician to identify and help manage the “important numbers” – your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and waist size. Then, you both can setup a plan on how to make improvements.
Exercise Regularly and Maintain a Healthy Weight.
Regular exercise can improve all of the “important numbers” listed above and also assist with weight loss. Maintaining a healthy weight is key to heart health. To achieve a healthy weight eat smaller portions of healthy foods, and don’t be tricked into experimenting with the latest fad diet.
Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet.
Avoid processed foods! Buy fresh produce (fruits, vegetables), lean meats, whole grains, choose “low-salt” or “unsalted” options when possible, and increase your water intake.
Limit or Eliminate Alcohol.
Not only is alcohol a source of empty calories, it can also cause rebound high blood pressure, potential heart muscle damage and weakness, and sensitizes your heart to abnormal rhythms. Drink only in moderation or not at all.
Quit Smoking and Avoid Secondhand Smoke.
The chemicals in tobacco smoke raise blood pressure, reduce good cholesterol (HDL) and damage not only your blood vessels, but those of the people around you. If you can find a way to quit and stay away from smoking permanently, you can reduce your risk almost immediately, and eliminate tobacco’s negative effects within three years.
Have Good Oral Hygiene.
Brushing and flossing regularly is not only good for your teeth and gums. Bacteria that cause gum disease can travel through your bloodstream, attach to damaged areas of your heart and cause inflammation. Though research seems to link the two, it could be other 3rd factors, like smoking, that initiate the inflammatory response setting off a cascade of vascular damage throughout the body, including the heart and brain. Further, the connection between poor oral health and overall health may not be limited to cardiovascular disease. Reason enough to keep brushing!
Laugh more, meditate, exercise, get enough sleep, unplug; find ways to take the edge off your stress to reduce the load on your heart.