Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease | Sturdy Memorial Hospital
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Published on February 01, 2019

Resolve to Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease

By: Umar Shakur, DO, board certified cardiologist at Sturdy Cardiology Associates

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and while that statistic is frightening, you can take proactive steps to reduce your risk. As the new year starts with resolutions in full swing, now is the perfect time to make changes that can help you improve your heart health!

It’s important to recognize that there are some risk factors that you can’t change, such as your age or your family history. But you can adopt a healthier lifestyle that benefits your overall wellness, including your heart.

Get Regular Health Check Ups
Know your numbers related to blood pressure and cholesterol. If either of these are high, they can damage your heart and blood vessels leading to a heart attack or stroke. You’ll also want to talk to your doctor about screening for diabetes. Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease, and early intervention, often with lifestyle changes, can prevent significant long-term complications. Regular screening lets you and your doctor know if action needs to be taken.

Heart Healthy Nutrition
A healthy diet is one of your best defenses against heart disease. Aim to fuel your body with nutrient rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts, as well healthy oils and fats, while keeping in mind any dietary preferences or restrictions. You’ll also want to limit the amount of sugars, salts, and red meat you incorporate into your diet. If you have high blood pressure, consider starting the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), which has years of research supporting its effectiveness in lowering high blood pressure. Diabetics can meet with a nutritionist or look at the American Diabetes Association’s website for ideas on meal planning with diabetes.

Aim for a Healthy Weight
Being overweight can increase your risk of heart disease, particularly if you carry excess weight around your middle. Using the Body Mass Index (BMI), which considers both your height and weight, you can identify your approximate body fat percentage. Ideally, you want to have a BMI under 25. The BMI is not a perfect tool, for instance, it does not take into account muscle mass, which weighs more than fat. Measuring your waist circumference can provide more insight. For men, a waist circumference greater than 40 inches is associated with increased cardiovascular risk. For women, a waist circumference greater than 35 inches is associated with increased cardiovascular risk. Measure your waist using a tape measure, around your middle, and above the hip bones. Take the measurement after you exhale. Reducing your weight by even a small percentage can help you lower your risk of heart disease.

Exercise
Commit to a small goal of physical exercise each day. Recent guidelines have shown that no amount of exercise is too little! The important thing is to make it a regular habit. A good regimen includes 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five days a week and two days a week of strength training. The goal is to get to 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, which has been shown to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and can help you move to a healthier weight.

Quit Smoking
If you smoke, quit. If your loved ones smoke, encourage them to quit. Smoking is bad for your overall health but it significantly increases your risk for heart disease. The more you smoke, the greater your risk, but quite frankly, no amount of smoking is safe when it comes to your heart. Quitting is hard, but there are resources available, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Once you quit, your risk of heart disease begins to decrease and continues to decrease year over year. In Massachusetts, you can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free support and advice to help you quit.

For more information about Cardiology services provided by Sturdy and the cardiologists of Sturdy Cardiology Associates, please call 508-431-3600.