Seven Steps to Living Well
While our risk for heart disease increases with age, and is influenced by our family history, there are still many opportunities for us to prevent it and live a healthier life. Our health is impacted by the choices we make every day.
Heart disease is the Number 1 killer of men and women. In the United States, one in three women die each year from heart disease. There are two types of heart disease – coronary artery and valvular (valve). While surgical interventions, like those done at Beebe, can improve a cardiac patient’s health and quality of life, it is important for each person to take an active role in living a healthy life.
“Life’s Simple 7,” which is endorsed by the American Heart Association, is a way to take seven simple steps which can lead to big changes. Here are the seven steps to take to improve your heart health:
- First, manage your blood pressure. High blood pressure is the top risk factor for heart disease and stroke. If you know you have high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage it. Make sure to eat a diet low in sodium and fat, which means cutting out pickles and other brined foods, as well as lowering fat intake from processed and fried foods.
- Next, control your cholesterol. Often, many patients are not aware that they have high cholesterol. An annual exam and blood work ordered by your physician can help you better understand your cholesterol numbers. Cholesterol contributes to the plaque build-up in your arteries. It is this build-up which can lead to blockages and heart attacks.
- Reduce your blood sugar. Those with high blood sugar or glucose and those with diabetes are more likely to develop heart disease. When we eat, the food we ingest is turned into energy. If the food is high in sugar, our body cannot utilize it all, which can lead to high blood sugar levels. When you have high blood sugar, your heart and kidneys have to work harder.
- Move more. It's not always possible to go from a couch potato to an Olympic athlete, however you can make more subtle changes. If you work a desk job, set a timer to take a short walk every hour. Add a brisk 15-20 minute walk right after work before you head home. Park your car at the back of the lot at the grocery store and walk quickly into the store and then back to your car pushing the cart. Daily physical activity not only improves your health, it can also improve your mood and overall outlook on life.
- Eat real food. Michael Pollen, author of In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (2008), famously wrote, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” While physicians understand that not everyone is going to go strictly vegetarian, it is important to note what is on your plate each day. If you don’t love salads, try getting more greens in smoothies or stir-fry (easy on the oil). When you are serving yourself, fill up most of your plate with vegetables and fruit. The meat and starch should just be a small portion. It’s all about balance. If you know you are going to a party this weekend, make sure to eat less before and after. A healthy diet is the best way to reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Lose weight. You knew, it was all leading up to this, didn’t you? Losing even a small percentage of your body weight vastly improves not only your heart health, but your lung, bone, and vascular health. Start small – shoot for losing five pounds. Then continue from there. Talk to your physician before you start any weight loss program to make sure you are healthy enough and to see what suggestions the doctor may have for you.
- Stop smoking. At this point, we all know how bad smoking it for our lungs. It also puts undue stress on our heart and other organs. Smoking is an addiction that can be hard to quit, however there is help available. If you are ready to quit, set that quit date and talk to the Delaware Quitline. There are many resources out there, including trained smoking cessation professionals for cancer patients at Beebe’s Tunnell Cancer Center.
Ready to plan to make a change? Start by determining your risk for heart disease with this simple survey - click here. For more information on heart health or if you need a cardiologist, call Carrie Snyder, Beebe Healthcare's Cardiac Nurse Navigator, at (844) 316-3334, or email [email protected].
Visit Beebe's Cardiology page for more information.