What you eat and drink, your exercise and activity level, how you cope with stress and lifestyle factors help determine the health of your heart. You can keep your heart healthy regardless of age, but it does require effort and possible changes in everyday habits. Follow a heart-healthy diet, get plenty of exercise, do what you can to reduce stress and live a life of moderation and you will be well on your way to maintaining a healthy heart. Though heart disease risks increase with age, it does not have to be an inevitable part of getting older.
What exactly is heart disease? Heart disease is a progressive condition that can start early in life but can also be prevented or controlled by making smart lifestyle choices. It is the term given to a group of different health conditions that affect the heart. These conditions are commonly known as:
Normally, the heart continues to pump enough blood to supply all parts of the body.
However, an older heart may not be able to pump blood as well when you make it work
harder. Some things that trigger the heart to work harder are:
- Certain medications
- Emotional stress
- Extreme physical exertion
It is never too late to start living a heart healthy lifestyle and here’s how to get started.
- Incorporate 30 minutes of daily exercise into your daily routine.
- If you do smoke-today is the day to quit.
- Load up on fresh fruits and vegetables
- Maintain regular medical appointments to monitor health conditions
- Reduce alcohol intake
- Find healthy outlets to reduce stress
- Maintain a healthy body weight for your size
Cholesterol is a fat (also called a lipid) that your body needs to work properly. When
you have high cholesterol, you may develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels.
These deposits could make it difficult for proper blood flow through your arteries.
High cholesterol has no symptoms but can be detected through a blood test. It is also
important to discuss blood test results with your physician.
Desired levels for Cholesterol:
- Below 200 is desirable
- 200-239 Borderline
- 240 or above is considered High Risk
HDL (High-density lipoproteins) Also known as good cholesterol:
- 60 or above low risk
- 40 – 60 Optimal
- 40 or below high risk
LDL (low-density lipoproteins) Also known as bad cholesterol:
- 100 or below low risk
- 150 or below low risk
Fats will impact your cholesterol. Eating healthy fats is good for the heart and most
other parts of the body. Healthy fats include monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and
omega -3 fats. A few healthy fat foods you should add to your diet are:
hypertension (high blood pressure)
Blood pressure, sometimes referred to as arterial blood pressure, is the pressure
exerted by circulating blood upon the walls of blood vessels, and is one of the
principal vital signs. Ensure your blood pressure is checked during your routine
physician visits. If you have any concerns regarding your blood pressure, discuss
purchasing a digital blood pressure machine with your healthcare provider.
Blood pressure is recording as two numbers:
1. Systolic Pressure (as the heart beats) over
2. Diastolic Pressure (as the heart relaxes between beats)
Desired Systolic Pressure less than 120
Desired Diastolic Pressure less than 80
The D.A.S.H. diet plan (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is proven effective
for lowering blood pressure. Below are excellent food choices you can incorporate into
your diet. You can visit www.dashdiet.org for more information on the DASH diet and
for healthy, delicious recipes. Talk with your doctor about what the best diet plan is
congestive heart failure
Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) does not mean the heart has stopped working, it means the pumping power is weaker than normal. With CHF, the blood moves through the heart and body at a slower rate. This results in the heart not pumping enough oxygen and nutrients to meet the body’s needs.
Symptoms of heart failure often begin slowly, usually at times when you are active. Over time, you may notice breathing problems and other symptoms when you are resting.
Common symptoms include:
- Fatigue, weakness, faintness
- Loss of appetite
- Need to urinate at night
- Pulse that feels fast or irregular
- Shortness of breath when you are active or after you lie down
- Swollen feet and ankles
- Waking up from sleep after a couple of hours due to shortness of breath
- Weight gain
If you think you may have heart failure, or you are worried about your heart failure risk, make an appointment with your family doctor. If heart failure is found early, your treatment may be easier and more effective. Always be prepared for your doctor’s appointments with questions and information to share about your current health status. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor questions. It’s never too early to make healthy lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, cutting down on salt and eating healthy foods. These changes can help prevent heart failure from starting or worsening.Your doctor often can suggest strategies to help you get and stay on track.
A heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI), is permanent damage to the heart muscle. “Myo” means muscle, cardial refers to the heart and “infarction” means death of tissue due to lack of blood supply. The cause of a heart attack is not always known.
Symptoms of a heart attack can include:
- Pain in your chest that radiates down your left arm, jaw or back pain
- Light-headedness, dizziness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Palpitations (feeling like your heart is beating too fast or irregularly)
- Shortness of breath
- Sweating, which may be very heavy after sudden, severe emotional or physical stress, including an illness
A heart attack is caused by:
- A piece of plaque breaking off and blocking blood from flowing to the heart. This is the most common cause of heart attack.
- A slow buildup of plaque narrowing one of the coronary arteries so that it is almost blocked.
A Heart attack may occur:
- When you are resting or asleep
- After a sudden increase in physical activity
In addition to medications, the same lifestyle changes that can help you recover from a heart attack can also help prevent future heart attacks. These include:
- Not smoking
- Controlling certain conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes
- Staying physically active
- Eating healthy foods
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Reducing and managing stress
A stroke, sometimes referred to as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), is the loss of brain function due to a disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. Transient ischemic attacks (TIA) or strokes can occur if blood flow to the brain is disrupted.
Sometimes symptoms of stroke develop gradually. But if you are having a stroke, you are more likely to have one or more sudden warning signs. Seek emergency medical advice (calling 911) immediately, as immediate medical attention could reduce effects of the stroke.
Common warning signs of stroke:
- Numbness or weakness in your face, arm, or leg, especially on one side
- Facial drooping on one side
- Confusion or trouble understanding other people
- Trouble speaking or slurred speech
- Trouble seeing with one or both eyes
- Trouble walking or staying balanced or coordinated
- Severe headache that comes on for no known reason
Types of Strokes:
An ischemic stroke happens when a vessel supplying blood to the brain becomes blocked.
A hemorrhagic stroke happens when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the brain.
A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a “mini stroke” from a temporary blockage. Although a TIA doesn’t cause permanent brain damage, it may cause stroke warning signs.
Never ignore stroke warning signs. Responding to symptoms quickly may decrease the affects.