Seven basic guidelines to help keep our hearts healthier and prevent disease
Most of us take better care of our cars than we do our hearts. Is that because we aren’t sure how to care for the old thumper, or does the proper care and feeding of our hearts seem overwhelming? Here are seven basic guidelines to help keep our hearts healthier and prevent disease, according to Joseph A. Lash, M.D., cardiologist, Norton Healthcare:
1. Stop smoking: If you don’t smoke, don’t start — and avoid secondhand smoke. Smoking damages your entire circulatory system and increases your risk for heart disease, hardened arteries, aneurysm, blood clots, heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease.
2. Start moving: The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. Find ways to incorporate activity into your daily routine. Stay active with your children or grandchildren and help them learn heart-healthy habits at a young age.
3. Eat a heart-healthy diet: Eat fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods as part of each meal. Limit saturated fats, sodium and added sugars. Include fish twice a week. Clean out the pantry and refrigerator and avoid purchasing items that are low in nutrition and high in empty calories. Drink plenty of water each day to stay well hydrated. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
4. Lose weight: Dropping as few as 5 to 10 pounds can have a positive impact on your overall heart health and can help reduce your risk for diabetes and other chronic health conditions. Be sure to work with your physician to lose weight gradually and keep it off.
5. Manage blood pressure: Keeping your blood pressure in the healthy range helps reduce the strain on your heart, arteries and kidneys. High blood pressure (hypertension) is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Managing stress and scheduling in regular physical activity will go a long way in managing your blood pressure.
6. Control cholesterol: Take steps to use nutrition and exercise to help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good cholesterol) to avoid the buildup of plaque in your veins and arteries.
7. Reduce blood sugar: Get regular physical activity, limit consumption of sugary desserts, soda and candy, and take medications or insulin if it is prescribed for you. Help keep your blood sugar in the healthy range to avoid prediabetes or diabetes, which greatly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.