February is American Heart Month, a federally designated observance to remind Americans to focus on the health of their hearts.
Cardiovascular disease knows no borders and ranks as the leading global cause of death claiming nearly 18 million people each year. Without major changes in lifestyle, this number may increase to 30 million by 2030. More than 2,300 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each day or one death every 38 seconds.
The Mayo Clinic states that even though heart disease is on the rise, it does not mean that you have to accept it as your fate. Perhaps the most beneficial discussion on heart disease this February would be on lifestyle changes we can all make to prevent or lessen the chances of cardiovascular disease becoming our destiny. This discussion should include both the things we should not do along with those habits we would be wise to avoid.
- Smoking cessation ranks at or near the top any list of risk factors for heart disease. Chemicals in tobacco damage heart and blood vessels while carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke replaces oxygen in your blood, so no amount of smoking is safe. The good news is that your risk of heart disease declines the moment you stop smoking.
- An exercise program of 30-minutes per day, including vigorous aerobic activity, can be a major factor in reducing the onset of heart disease which may result in a loss of unwanted pounds and lessen the chances of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Activities such as gardening, walking stairs, and taking a stroll with the family dog all count as exercise.
- A diet which includes frequent servings of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean meats, and fish are good for the heart while too much salt, and sugar intake along with excessive alcohol consumption may have the opposite effect.
- Limiting saturated fat is an important part of any diet plan. Limit or reduce fats to no more than five to six percent of your daily calorie intake.
- Obesity, especially weight around the middle of the body may increase the risk of heart disease. Even a small weight loss of three to five percent may result in a reduction of blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
- A way to determine if your weight is healthy is to calculate your body mass index (BMI) which is determined by a formula calculated by the relationship of your height and weight. BMI numbers exceeding 25 are associated with high risk for cardiovascular issues. Your physician or healthcare professional can assist with measuring your BMI.
- Sleep deprivation may have an adverse effect on the heart. People who don’t get sufficient sleep experience a higher risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart attacks, diabetes and depression. Sleep should always be an ongoing and daily priority. Retiring to bed at approximately the same time every night and waking at the same hour each morning should provide positive results. Those suffering from Sleep Apnea may benefit from exercise and loss of unneeded pounds, or a CPAP prescription, a device that helps people breathe during sleep.
- Stress may have a detrimental effect on the human heart. Many respond to stress with unhealthy habits such as overeating, drinking and smoking resulting in damage to the heart. Techniques for dealing with stress include physical activity, relaxation exercises or meditation, which help improve your overall health.
- Regular health screenings are an important first step in determining your overall health and let you know what action should be taken. A simple screening for blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol may confirm your good health or warn of changes needed.
During 2018, more than 1,800 patients, including a number from the far western regions of the state, entrusted their heart health to Hutch Regional, which is a tribute to our high caliber group of cardiologists including Dr. Mike Hagley, T.K. Reddy, Jamil Ahmed, Costy Mattar and Dr. Rob Fleming, a cardiothoracic surgeon.
Drs. Hagley, Mattar and Ahmed visit area hospitals and clinics each month to treat heart patients at outreach clinics in Lyons, Great Bend, Larned, Ellsworth and McPherson.
The greatest gift we can give ourselves is the gift of good health. So, during American Heart Month, let’s commit to a healthy lifestyle and make those small changes that can lead to a much healthier life.