5 Steps to Save Your Heart
Heart disease seems to have a grip on the nation. However, it doesn’t have to have grip on you. Slice your risk for heart and other cardiovascular diseases in half by incorporating these five steps into your lifestyle: Eat Better – A heart healthy diet starts with fruits and vegetables. Dr. Allison Shaw-Devine, M.D., cardiologist at the UAMS Neighborhood Clinic, says eating least 3-5 servings of fruits and veggies each day can slash your risk for heart disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other chronic illnesses. Know Your Numbers – “Knowing your numbers refers to having a regular follow-up visit with your health care provider to assess your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, etc. so you can work to modify your risk,” says Shaw-Devine. High blood pressure, known as hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. An optimal blood pressure reading is one with a systolic (top number) less than 120 and the diastolic (bottom number) less than 80. Want to prevent high blood pressure? Manage your stress and eat a healthy diet. Did you know that most people with diabetes die from some form of heart or blood vessel disease? That’s why it’s important to reduce your blood sugar. A normal sugar level is considered to be less than 100 when fasting and less than 140 after eating. Want to reduce your blood sugar? Consume less simple sugars found in soda, candy and sugary desserts.
Your body needs cholesterol to build new cells, insulate nerves and produce nerves. But, having too much is a major risk for heart disease. A total cholesterol level between 200 and 239 is borderline high, and 240 and above is high.
Stop Smoking – It’s worth it to do whatever it takes to stop smoking. Smoking damages your entire circulatory system, and increases your risk for coronary heart disease, hardened arteries, aneurysm and blood clots. And continuing to smoke throughout your life shaves 13-14 years off of it. Move More - Your heart is like other muscles, however, in that it needs exercise to work efficiently. What kind of exercise would that be? All it takes is a brisk 40-minute walk four days each week. Don’t have 40 minutes? Break it down into two or three smaller periods of time each day and get the same benefits.
Lose Weight - If you have too much fat — especially if a lot of it is at your waist — you’re at higher risk for such health problems as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes. You can reduce your risk for heart disease by successfully losing weight and keeping it off. Even losing as few as five or ten pounds can produce a dramatic blood pressure reduction.