Heart Month: 7 Simple Steps for a Healthier Life – and Heart
By Dr. Carine Basmadjian, Cardiologist, Holy Rosary Healthcare
Did you know your heart beats around 100,000 times daily and pumps 2,000 gallons of blood? Your heart truly is the workhorse of your body. The question is: how well do you take care of your heart?
A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons to fight cardiovascular disease. It's not as hard as you may think, but it does require you to be intentional. According to the American Heart Association, there are seven risk factors (Life's Simple 7) that people can improve through lifestyle changes. At Holy Rosary Healthcare and Intermountain Health, we are sharing simple ways to keep you and your heart healthy.
1. Manage Your Blood Pressure: High blood pressure is a significant risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure. When your blood pressure stays within the healthy range, you reduce the strain on your heart, arteries, and kidneys, which keeps you healthier longer. Recommended blood pressure: 120/80.
2. Control Your Cholesterol: High cholesterol contributes to plaque, which can clog arteries and lead to heart disease and stroke. It's not inherently "bad." Your body needs it to build cells. But too much cholesterol can pose a problem. Cholesterol comes from two sources. Your liver makes all the cholesterol you need. The remainder of your body's cholesterol comes from animal-based foods.
3. Reduce Your Blood Sugar: Most of our food is turned into glucose (or blood sugar) that our bodies use for energy. Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage your heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves. The first step to managing your blood sugar is to understand what makes blood sugar levels rise. The carbohydrates and sugars in what you eat and drink turn into glucose (sugar) in the stomach and digestive system. Glucose can then enter the bloodstream. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that helps the body's cells take up glucose from blood and lower blood sugar levels. In type 2 diabetes, glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells because: The body develops "insulin resistance" and can't use the insulin it makes efficiently. The pancreas gradually loses its ability to produce insulin. The result can be a high blood glucose level.
4. Get More Active: Living an active life is one of the most rewarding gifts you can give yourself and those you love. Simply put, daily physical activity increases your length and quality of life. Adults should get a weekly total of at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise, or a combination of both, spread throughout the week. Kids and teens should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily.
5. Eat Better and More Heart-Healthy: A healthy diet is one of your best weapons for fighting heart disease. Eating a heart-healthy diet improves your chances of feeling good and staying fit – for life. Make smart choices to build an overall healthy eating style. Watch calories and eat smaller portions. Cooking at home is a great way to avoid foods packed with fat, salt, and extra calories.
6. Maintain a Proper Weight: When you maintain proper weight, you reduce the burden on your heart, lungs, blood vessels, and skeleton. You give yourself the gift of active living, lower your blood pressure, and help yourself feel better. To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat. Understanding how many calories you take in and your activity level can help you identify changes you want to make. An activity tracker can help you track your physical activity.
7. If You Smoke, Stop; Don't Start: Cigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health.
Dr. Carine Basmadjian, MD, is a cardiologist at the SCL Health Heart and Vascular Institute and part of a team of specialists providing care to our communities in Eastern Montana. To learn more about our providers and the full range of heart and vascular services we offer, please visit svh.org/heart