February is American Heart Month: Heart Disease Prevention

February is American Heart Month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the state of Michigan, and the nation. 17.3 million deaths per year are claimed by cardiovascular disease.

Understanding The Impact

Heart disease is a change in the physiological structure and function of the heart that can create a cascade of events. Over time, this can lead to the narrowing of the blood vessels to plaque build-up in your vessels, which leads to the decreasing oxygen-rich blood to and from the heart to all the organs of the body. Heart disease can be gradual and your lifestyle and habits can be a driver to increasing your risk.

Some examples of heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions include:

  • Congenital Heart Disease
  • Coronary Artery Disease
  • Vascular Disease
  • Heart Valve Disease
  • Aorta Disease
  • Heart Failure
  • Stroke
  • Arrhythmia
  • Cardia Arrest
  • High Blood Pressure

These health conditions are often precursors to heart disease:

  • Hypertension
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Lipid disease / Hyperlipidemia
  • Undiagnosed Health Issues

Warning Signs

  • Fatigue, often a vague sign
  • Congestion / Coughing
  • Leg / Ankle swelling
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Stomach Pains / Cramping (common in women)
  • Pain in the jaw
  • Pain or numbness in the arm 

Prevention

According to the American Heart Association, a healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons to fight cardiovascular disease. Many precipitating factors surrounding heart disease are: elevated blood pressure that’s gone untreated, weight gain, smoking, lack of exercise and medication misuse. Certain risk factors are modifiable/controllable – such as smoking, one’s diet and exercise habits, but others caused by your genetics or health history are uncontrollable.

  • Know your body will do what it needs to keep you alive, it is your job to take care of it and invest in modifiable, healthy lifestyle choices.
  • Get into an exercise routine, daily. This teaches your heart to move the blood more efficiently, which builds collateral circulation. The recommendation by the American Heart Association is 150 minutes of exercise for adults per week, to include both cardiovascular activity and strength training exercises.
  • Shop the perimeter of your grocery store. You will often find fresh produce and healthier options here, as opposed to the more processed goods on the interior.
  • Make fresh foods. Cook at home instead of relying on dining out and convenience foods.
  • Read food labels. Know serving size, measure portions and keep an eye on amounts of sodium, sugar, trans fat and unhealthy fats in the foods you choose.
  • Try your best to manage stress, surrounding yourself with those you can talk to and decompress with.
  • Get a good night’s sleep! Resting your body properly promotes a healthier heart, lowered stress and an immune system boost.
  • Do things that make you happy.
  • Get moving at work! Plan walking meetings, stretch throughout the day, find fun ways to exercise.
  • Make household duties a chance to get active – laundry, playing with your kids, etc.

Maintaining a healthy heart is all about your perspective and the way you prioritize values that benefit your health. It is easy to fall behind, but following some of these tips, you can be on the road to a healthier heart in no time.

Flickr: jchapiewsky 

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