You probably don’t think about your heart every day. But it’s always working for you. Your heart beats an astounding 100,000 times a day.
It’s easy to take it for granted. But you shouldn’t. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S. Why not give your heart a hand with these simple strategies.
Checking Your Cholesterol
- Get your cholesterol checked.
Don’t wait until you have heart disease symptoms to check your cholesterol. High cholesterol can significantly increase your risk for developing chest pain, heart attack and stroke. Starting effective treatments early can decrease your risk and head off future problems.
For adults, get your cholesterol checked by age 20, and checked again every four to six years. That’s the recommendation from the American Heart Association. You may need to get it checked more frequently if you have heart disease risk factors.
For children, get their cholesterol checked between ages 9 and 11 and again between ages 17 and 21. That’s the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and it’s due to the growing epidemic of childhood obesity. Other factors, such as family history of heart attacks, may affect this recommendation.
Monitor Your Blood Pressure
- Be aware of this silent killer.
High blood pressure is called the silent killer because it has no physical symptoms. In fact, one in three adults in the U.S. don’t know they have it. That’s why your blood pressure is the first thing that gets checked when you have a doctor’s appointment. Knowing your numbers, and taking action, can help keep your blood pressure under control.
120 over 80 mm Hg or less is a normal blood pressure reading. Anything above is considered elevated.
Monitoring Your Diabetes
- Keep diabetes in check.
People with diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke – and at a younger age – compared to those who don’t have diabetes. The longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to have heart disease.
If you are age 35 and overweight, you should be screened for type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. This is five years earlier than previous guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.*
The Importance of an Active Lifestyle
- Add exercise to your routine.
Being physically active has many benefits – from helping you maintain a healthy weight to lowering your blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (brisk walking or bicycling, for example) each week is the current recommendations from the Surgeon General
Make Heart Healthy Choices
- Make healthier consumption choices.
It’s no surprise that consuming unhealthy things can lead to health issues. Making simple choices every day – from the foods you eat to the substances you consume – can significantly improve your overall heart health
- Eat a healthy diet. You can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease and high blood pressure, keep your weight in check and help head off diabetes.
- Pay attention to how much salt is in your diet. It can hide in canned soups, condiments and frozen meals, for example.
- Limit alcohol consumption. Ongoing use can lead to high blood pressure, weakened heart muscle and an irregular heartbeat.
- Quit smoking - or don’t start. Chemicals in cigarette smoke cause blood to thicken and increases the formation of plaque in blood vessels.
If you’re concerned about your heart, or simply want to improve your health, talk to your provider. Together, you can work on simple strategies to give your heart a hand.
Temitope Mary Falade, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC
Cardiology - Primary Care