How’s Your Heart?
Heart disease is a big problem. It is the #1 health condition in older adults. Normal aging causes your heart and blood vessels to stiffen which can lead to heart problems. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Americans.
What is heart disease? Heart disease refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type is high blood pressure. But coronary artery disease, often referred to as high cholesterol, is also a very common problem for many. These conditions can worsen and cause heart attack. People also have problems with stroke, angina, congestive heart failure, peripheral artery disease and heart arrhythmias.
Risk Factors and Prevention
If you are age 65 or older and male, African American and have a family history of heart attack, you are at increased risk over other groups. Family history, race, sex and age are risk factors you cannot control. But there are other factors which you can control. You can control lifestyle factors like diet, exercise and smoking.
Your Emotions and Your Heart
Is it a myth to die of a broken heart? Have you ever had a “racing heart” when you were excited? Or did you ever feel your heart beating up into your throat when you were frightened or frustrated? Negative emotions like frustration, stress, fear and even depression can be bad for the heart and lead to heart disease. Some research has suggested that three things can be particularly healthy for our hearts:
Meditate daily on all the things you are thankful for. This contributes to a smooth, rhythmical heartbeat.
Watch comedies on TV, read the comic strips, and have fun with people who have a good sense of humor.
Little social interaction can result in higher rates of heart disease. Get out. Find a group. Take a class. Call an old friend. Your heart will be lighter.
Tips to Keep Your Heart Healthy
Be Fit: Don’t let getting older stop you from being active. Physical activity promotes blood flow to the body’s tissue and organs. It also strengthens bones and muscles, thus preventing falls. Aim for at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week. Activities like gardening, housekeeping, taking the stairs and walking the dog all count. Be sure to check with a healthcare professional before starting an exercise regimen. AW can help. Our physical therapists can help you launch a safe exercise program tailored just for you. Call us in MO (314) 726-5600 and in IL (618) 344-8800.
Don’t Smoke: Nicotine is highly addictive, and quitting, especially without help, can be extremely difficult. Try setting a “stop date” for yourself, once you have made the decision to quit. Know that a majority of people who attempt to quit on the first try do not succeed. Take advantage of the resources available and communicate your desire to quit with your doctor.
Eat Right: Your diet should include whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy products, poultry, fish, nuts and legumes and non-tropical oils. Watch your portion sizes. Reduce your salt intake. Eating right prevents plaque buildup. Include 5 to 10 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Here are some delicious ideas that support healthy blood pressure and help reduce plaque buildup in your arteries: apples, garbanzo beans, almonds, blueberries, grapes, figs, walnuts and deep green vegetables like spinach and broccoli. High-fiber foods are also important like oatmeal, brown rice and whole grain bread. You can also enjoy dark chocolate, red wine and tea. But watch your weight! Keep to smaller portions at mealtime and skip high-sugar/high-salt snacks.
Get Screened: Get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly. High blood pressure and high cholesterol can damage your heart and blood vessels. Regular screening can tell you what your numbers are and whether you need to take action.
AW Health Care can help you get regular blood pressure checks to monitor your heart health. If you haven’t had your cholesterol checked lately, let us know. We can help you get these important checks done conveniently for you. Call us in MO (314) 726-5600 and in IL (618) 344-8800.
Manage Your Stress: Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction. Your brain comes hard-wired with an “alarm system” for your protection, so when your brain receives a threat, it signals your body to release a burst of hormones. In times of continued stress your brain is constantly sounding the “fight or flight” alarm causing negative effects on your health like high blood pressure. If you have trouble managing stress, seek your doctor’s assistance.