February is Heart Health Month!

by Estee Bienstock, RN
heart healthHEART HEALTH
February is Heart Health Month. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. More than 600,000 people die annually of heart disease and 135,000 from strokes. Too many people with high blood pressure and high cholesterol ignore the dangers. More education about heart disease is vital.

Research has shown that seven heart healthy behaviors are consistent with a healthy heart.

1. No smoking
2. Body Mass Index (BMI) is lower than 25
3. Adequate physical activity
4. Healthy balanced diet
5. Cholesterol level lower than 200
6. Blood pressure lower than 120/80
7. Blood Sugar level lower than 100

Maintaining a normal weight for your age and height is crucial. Find out what is appropriate for you. It is all about making the right lifestyle changes. Making the right choices can make a difference for your life.

1. Fit exercise in your day
2. Look at your dietary habits. What changes have to be made?
3. Put down that cigarette!

Foods to consider for heart health are vegetables, fruits and fish. Wild salmon is particularly recommended for its anti-inflammatory qualities and for having Omega-3 (healthy fatty acids) in it. It boosts your immune system, decreases blood clots and protects against heart attacks. Steel-Cut Oats have Complex B vitamins. These vitamins also protect against clots and hardening of the arteries. Foods to avoid are those containing high levels of sodium, sugar and saturated fats.

Find a physician you feel comfortable with and trust. Make sure you can communicate your concerns. Consider your physician part of your team when making lifestyle changes. If you are on any medications, take them the way they are prescribed.

Include your family members in the lifestyle changing team. You will do better with support. Educate yourself and your family about lifestyle changes you can make to prevent heart disease. Making changes takes determination and a plan of action. Work on one or two changes at a time so that you do not get overwhelmed and abandon the whole plan. Taking steps to improve your heart health can save your life and the lives of your loved ones.

HEART DISEASE WARNING SIGNS
1. Shortness of breath
2. Dizziness
3. Persistent coughing or wheezing
4. Fatigue / tiredness
5. Lack of appetite
6. Nausea
7. Impaired thinking / confusion
8. Skipped beats or increased heart rate
9. Sweating
10.Chest pain radiating down arm

It should be noted that heart disease is the number one killer of women, even more so than breast cancer. Women can experience the same symptoms as men but may have more shortness of breath, back and jaw pain and lightheadedness.

Additonal Resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Heart
American Heart Association – 10 Years of “Going Red”