Heart disease is the single leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States today, claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined. Unfortunately, if you have a heart, you are at risk for heart disease! The good news is, there are many things you can do to minimize those risks and help prevent heart disease. Before we dive into how to get and stay heart healthy, let’s explore exactly how the heart works and the more common forms of heart disease.
The heart is a muscle that pumps blood to all parts of the body. It works directly with the circulatory system to deliver to all other organs what is needed to function properly. All of the oxygen and nourishment your body needs to thrive is supplied through blood pumped from the heart and all unwanted carbon dioxide and waste products are sent away by the heart. The heart is like two pumps combined into one. The right side is responsible for receiving oxygen poor blood from the veins and sending it into the lungs where it replenishes with oxygen and unwanted carbon dioxide is removed. The left side does just the opposite; it receives oxygen rich blood from the lungs and sends it out to the rest of the body.
What exactly is heart disease?
There are many forms of heart disease, all of which involve a physical issue or deformity of the heart itself. Although heart disease and cardiovascular disease are often used interchangeably, they are not exactly the same. Cardiovascular disease involves issues with blood vessels and the circulatory system in addition to the heart. Some of the common forms of heart disease are as follows:
- Congenital heart disease – Deformities of the heart present since birth. Examples would include a hole in the heart or obstruction/blockage through the chambers that do not properly permit blood flow.
- Arrhythmia – An irregular heartbeat.
- Coronary artery disease – narrowed coronary arteries due to blockage, or simple weakened or damaged coronary arteries. This prevents oxygen and nutrients from getting to the heart.
- Congestive Heart Failure – when the heart does not properly pump blood to the rest of the body efficiently.
- Heart Attack – when blood flow is interrupted and damages or destroys part of the heart muscle. These interruptions are often from blood clots or coronary artery issues.
How to get and stay heart healthy
One in every four deaths in America are stemmed from some type of heart disease. While some heart disease is genetically passed on or even present at the time or birth, there are certain lifestyle changes that can drastically reduce the risk of developing heart disease. The below tips are not only preventative measures but can also improve upon existing heart complications. If you currently have heart disease or are at risk, consult with your doctor prior to making major life changes in attempt to improve your situation naturally.
- Diet – minimize high salt and sugar diets, increase fiber intake and be sure not to pass on the fruits & veggies! Choose whole grain and low fat alternatives.
- Exercise – Your heart is a muscle. Exercise itself will strengthen your heart just as it will any other muscle in the body. There are other added benefits to frequent exercise such lower cholesterol, healthy blood pressure, healthy body weight and overall exercise leads to healthier lifestyle habits.
- If you smoke, quit! This is a huge risk factor for heart conditions.
- Minimize alcohol intake.
- Manage stress.
- Control your blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Get enough rest. Getting enough sleep alone will take care of several other items on this list.
Age is an unavoidable risk factor in heart disease. Once you hit 55, your chances of getting heart disease increase drastically. Do your heart a favor and cultivate a lifestyle around the items above as early on as possible. Although sooner is better than later, later is better than never. It is never too late to get started on your journey to a healthier lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle is the best heart disease preventative measure. If you are at risk for or believe you are showing signs of heart disease and complications, do not hesitate to contact us with questions or medical advice. Our goal at CT Cardio is to get and keep you “heart healthy”.