7 Steps to a Healthy Heart
Step 1: Quit smoking.
Smoking is the biggest preventable risk factor for heart and vascular disease. If you are a smoker you need to quit – period. Come up with a plan and pick an accountability partner. Visit the STOP NOW website. If you are unable to quit on your own contact your physician regarding smoking cessation aids such as nicotine patch, gum, medications.
Step 2: Exercise and Increase Activity
It is very important to make time in your schedule to accomplish this goal. Exercise has incredible beneficial effects on your heart and vascular system and reduces your risk of heart disease, stroke and vascular disease, as well as helping to control diabetes and blood pressure. If you are new to exercise, try to find a friend or family member to begin an exercise program with you – again the concept of an accountability partner – or participate in exercise classes or work with a trainer. For the beginner, it can be as simple as walking at a pace where you would feel it slightly difficult to carry on a conversation. Start with whatever amount of time you can tolerate and do it at least 5 days a week. Goal is to reach 30 min per day/5 times per week. For those of you who already exercise – challenge yourself to make it to the next level. Goal 45-60 min/5-7 times per week. No matter what level of fitness you are at always keep trying to increase your intensity to the next level and accomplish new goal and new types of exercise.
Step 3: Modify diet
Okay – I don’t have enough space to tackle this in topic in one article. I realize that our readers are at different levels of healthy eating ranging from unhealthy to uber health. Modifying your diet is a long process that generally need frequent tweaking – but again set small goals and once accomplish each goal add a new one. An example would be to stop drinking soda, stop eating fast food, etc. Try to change your diet to a “clean” diet where you eat whole, natural foods which are foods that are in their original state and have no or minimal processing. Reduce your sugar intake. Excessive refined (added sugars) are linked with increasing the risk of developing various diseases from diabetes to heart and vascular disease to certain types of cancers.
Step 4: Learn the warning signs of heart attack
Females often have signs and symptoms of a heart attack that are different from symptoms that men experience. Symptoms tend to be subtler and may present as chest achiness, shortness of breath, arm pain, jaw pain, pain between the scapula, flu-like symptoms, severe fatigue, indigestion. Take the time to learn the warning signs and if you are experiencing any unusual symptoms please do not put it off and contact your healthcare provider right away
Step 5: Know your numbers
Be proactive about your health. Get screening test for heart disease and if your numbers are outside of the norm work on getting them back to normal /low risk range. Examples of important numbers to know include your blood pressure, BMI (body mass index), blood sugar, cholesterol, crp (c-reactive protein). There are several different tools and labs that can help identify your risk for heart and vascular disease. I encourage you to talk with your healthcare provider to see what preventative measures you can take.
Step 6: Sleep
Americans in general are sleep deprived. Make it your goal to try to obtain 7-9 hour per night. Try to stick to a schedule – your body does not know that it is a weekend so it is difficult to adjust to sleeping in and going to bed later the weekends.
Step 7: Stress Relief
Stress wreaks havoc on our bodies creating inflammation and triggering a variety of detrimental effects. When we are chronically stressed out bodies churn out stress hormones that affect organ function and our metabolism. Learn to set boundaries – at work, with family and friends. If you say yes to everything that you are asked to do – you will become overwhelmed and your body will start pumping out stress hormones – and eventually you will have a melt-down – okay I know it’s not a medical term but y’all know what I’m talking about. You need to find activities that help you relieve stress and make them a priority in your schedule. Reduce social media use and avoid comparing yourself and your life to other people’s Facebook and Pinterest perfect lives. Let’s face it – nobody posts the ugly pictures, the family arguments or failed recipes/projects on social media. Instead engage in relaxing activities such as getting a massage, yoga, painting, spending quality time with friends or whatever activities you enjoy doing. Branch out and try some new things – you may find something you enjoy doing – or at least meet some interesting people along the way.
Your health is your most important asset. You can have all the possessions or money in the world but if you don’t have your health everything else is worthless
Park Place Professional Center
2090 W Arlington Blvd, Suite B
Greenville, NC 27834
Ph: 252-757-3333 / 252-758-3000