As National Heart Health Month comes to a close, Adena Health System wants to encourage you to continue to care for your heart all year long.
“Heart disease remains the number one cause of death in Ross County due to the general lifestyle of our region,” explained Adena Cardiologist Bruce Chen, MD. “What may be accepted as ‘normal’ such as an unhealthy weight and sedentary lifestyle is actually very unhealthy. It is up to us as a community to work together to change that.”
When it comes to heart health, small changes can go a long way. Here are five small steps Dr. Chen recommends taking to prevent heart disease.
- 1. Quit Smoking
“Smoking is the greatest risk factor when it comes to your heart’s health,” Dr. Chen said. “While quitting is very difficult, it is possible. The first step is deciding to quit. Talk to your primary care provider (PCP) about nicotine replacement and medications.”
- Routine Wellness Visits
“Seeing your doctor regularly and modifying your lifestyle and risk factors can make a huge positive impact on your health,” he explained. “During regular checkups, patients are screened for blood pressure, cholesterol levels and illnesses such as diabetes, all serious problems that can have a great impact on the heart if untreated.”
- Healthy Diet
“Balanced diets can decrease your blood pressure, improve your cholesterol and help you maintain a healthy weight. All of these factors decrease your risk for heart disease, heart attack and other diseases.” said Dr. Chen.
A well balanced diet includes eating several servings of the following:
- Fruits (berries)
- Vegetables (dark greens)
- Lean meats (poultry and fish)
- Low fat dairy
- Nuts (almonds and walnuts)
- Unsaturated fats high in omega 3s such as extra virgin olive oil and avocados.
“Don’t forget to be careful with your portion sizes and practice mindful eating,” he added. “Remember to chew slowly and not to rush through your meal or mindlessly eat while watching TV.
Avoid processed foods such as:
- Fried foods
- Lunch meats
- Hot dogs
“Gradual changes in your diet are important to long-term success and making these changes with your family or friends can be helpful.”
- Stay Active
“Any physical activity improves your heart health through decreasing inflammatory factors in your body and improving conditioning of your heart and body,” he said. “Depending on your age and medical condition, you should discuss types and intensity of exercise with your PCP. Try to find a physical activity that you like and do it with your co-workers, friends and family. You can start with simply walking 30 minutes a day. If you have difficulty walking, consider swimming, a stationary bike or arm exercises. “
- 5. Eliminate Stressors
“Stress negatively affects health in multiple ways including increasing inflammatory components in your body that can lead to heart disease,” explained Dr. Chen. “Routine exercise and healthy diet can reduce stress. Yoga, mindfulness, meditation, breathing exercises can also help with reducing stress. Identifying the stressors in your life and discussing it with friends and family can also help.”
Those who have a premature family history of coronary artery disease (males younger than 55 or females younger than 65 in their family), smokers and diabetics are at higher risk for heart dieses.
To find out if you are at risk, take Adena’s Health Risk Assessment at adena.org/findout