What is Heart Disease?
Heart Disease is one of the leading causes of death in America today. As such, a large emphasis has been placed on heart health and increasing the education surrounding heart disease and heart-related issues.
Heart Disease is a term that generally describes any condition that affects your heart. This can include coronary artery disease, rhythm problems, infection, heart defects, blood vessel and cardiovascular issues, and other issues of the heart.
Heart Disease is expressed by a variety of symptoms depending on the exact issue that you are experiencing, but can often be described with chest pain, shortness of breath, and pain or numbness and weakness in the arms or legs.
Heart Disease is a serious condition that should be taken as seriously. Failure to treat heart disease or chronic heart issues can lead to heart attack, angina, stroke, or heart failure; however, with preventative care and treatment there are many ways of heading off heart disease before it becomes life-threatening.
Improving Heart Health:
There are several important aspects to improving your heart health. The following should be considered in conjunction with treatment for your specific condition, and not as a replacement for other medical treatment.
The American Heart Association provides the following seven goals to help you on your way to better heart health:
- Stop smoking
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a healthful diet
- Control blood pressure
- Control cholesterol
- Control blood sugar
Nutrition: Nutrition is one of the most important aspects of reducing heart disease. The following nutritional guidelines are recommended:
- 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables per day
- two 3.5 ounce servings of fish per week
- three, one-ounce servings of fiber-rich whole grains per day
- less than 1500 mg of sodium per day
- fewer than 450 calories of sugar-sweetened beverages
- four servings of nuts, legumes, and seeds per week
- no more than two servings of processed meat per week
- less than 7% of total energy should be saturated fats
A wide variety of foods and nutritious servings are recommended on a regular basis. Small changes to diet can have a huge impact on overall heart health.
The heart checkmark is located on a number of products that are certified by the American Heart Association as being heart-healthy foods.
Keeping a food diary can make tracking your diet and exercise easier.
Physical Activity: Obesity is a major cause of Heart Disease today. Getting started on a physical exercise program can be daunting and challenging; however, physical activity is anything that gets your heart rate up and burns calories. This includes walking, hiking, riding a bike, aerobics, swimming, and other activities. Doing these types of activities strengthens your heart, improves your overall fitness level, and has other positive benefits.
Exercising for 150 minutes per week at a moderate pace, or 75 minutes at a vigorous pace, can help reduce heart-stress and Heart Disease. A simple way to get started is to do 30 minutes per day, five days per week. For those who are not used to physical activity or don't know where to get started, divide the time up in to 10 to 15 minute segments. Walking is a good place to start, and even if 30 minutes seems like a lot, do what you can and slowly build your tolerance from there.
It is important to maintain reasonable and healthy goals. Small steps are okay - just make sure you take that first step.
Stress Management: Stress has a physical impact on your body. As your stress level increases, you may be prone to a variety of symptoms, some of which can deeply impact your heart health. It is not uncommon to have decreased activity, negative dietary choices, high blood pressure, and increased drug and alcohol consumption.
There are many positive habits to help you manage stress, and increase your heart health. Rely on your social network; talk to family and friends. Engage in physical activity. Set goals, and work toward them. Laugh. Laugh often. Give up drugs, alcohol, caffeine, and cigarettes. Slow down--life's not a race. Sleep regularly. Organize your life. Volunteer or contribute to a cause. Stop worrying. If you can adopt some of these habits, you are on your way to better heart health.
Weight Management: Losing weight can also help get your heart symptoms under control. Losing weight means that you are burning more calories than you are taking in. Losing weight is often manageable for most people by cutting 500 calories per day to lose one pound per week.
The other way of losing weight, which can be used on its own or in conjunction with dietary changes, is to burn more calories. This includes increasing your physical activity, choosing more difficult activity, or engaging in activity for longer periods of time. It is also important to be sure that you have a comprehensive exercise program that works on muscle tone and cardio or aerobic exercises.
Education is key to weight management, including learning what foods are "heart healthy" foods, what exercise programs will work for you, and recipes to keep your diet interesting and engaging. Talk to your healthcare professional to discuss your personal situation and health history.
One way of judging your health is by finding your Body Mass Index. This is a computation of your weight, your height, and your activity level. The higher your BMI, the harder your heart has to work. Higher BMI (over 30) increases your risk of heart diseases.
Fats: It is not uncommon to believe that all fats are bad for you, will lead to obesity, and are bad for your heart; however, it has been shown that your body does need a certain amount of good fats to maintain cell growth and a healthy body. They protect your organs and regulate your body, as well as absorb important nutrients.
There are four main kinds of fats: saturated fats, transfats, monounsturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. Each of these fats have different impacts on your body. The negative fats are saturated and transfats, and are identifiable by their solid state at room temperature. Healthy fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are liquid at room temperature.
Bad fats raise the bad cholesterol levels in your body (LDL), while good fats raise the good cholesterol levels in your blood (HDL).
Smoking: Smoking is one of the major risk factors associated with heart disease. Death due to smoking and smoking-related issues is completely preventable. Smokers have a much higher risk of developing many chronic conditions, including issues that impact the heart.
Because smoking decreases the body's capacity to engage in physical activity, there is an immediate negative risk tied to smoking. It also increases the risk of having artery disease, aneurysm, and coronary heart disease.
There are many programs and some medications available to help you quit smoking. Speak to your health care provider for more information.
Heart Health Resources:
The American Heart Association is a great resource for finding information about heart disease, risk factors, lifestyle guidelines, and other information related to heart disease, including getting healthy.
Kaiser Permanente published a white paper on heart disease, including a brief overview and multiple Kaiser resources for more information.
Heart Healthy Women is a resource for heart disease in women.
Heart-Health.org provides nutrition and diet information to help maintain heart health.
The Healthy Heart Guide offers information and resources to promote healthy living to lower the risk of heart disease.