Maintaining Your Healthy Heart

Family preparing food together

When a heart-healthy diet, regular exercise and avoidance of tobacco products become lifestyle habits, the risk of a coronary event can be significantly reduced.

Healthy eating is an essential component of cardiovascular fitness. It helps lower blood pressure and lipids, as well as future risks for heart attacks and strokes. When looking for a diet plan to follow, the DASH and Mediterranean-style plans are healthy choices.

Both diets focus heavily on plant-based foods, lean meats, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats like olive oil. While the Mediterranean diet has gained popularity in recent years, it has been around for centuries. The DASH diet, originally created to control blood pressure, is backed by significant scientific studies and has been successful at lowering LDL, the bad cholesterol.

Beyond the foods you eat, it’s important to monitor the amount of sodium in your diet. This is especially critical since nine out of 10 Americans consume too much salt, which can lead to multiple cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure, damage of the heart and kidneys, and blood vessel damage. In fact, the average American consumes more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium daily, significantly higher than the recommended amount of 1,500 milligrams per day.

Also critical for your heart’s health is exercise. In fact, the combination of diet and exercise has been shown to lower the systolic blood pressure by 10 points — generally equivalent to the use of medication. The general rule of thumb for exercise is 150 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity, like a brisk walk, per week. This is generally divided into 30-minute intervals.

During medical checkups, healthcare providers should determine what can be done to reduce the risks of future health issues. Atherosclerosis, or plaque build-up in the arteries, is the number one health issue, and is responsible for a significant number deaths and disabilities. Common health conditions related to atherosclerosis include heart attacks, angina, strokes, TIAs (transient neurologic events) and PAD (peripheral artery disease).

Throughout the past few decades, treating cholesterol levels with medications like statins have been effective at reducing the risk of future cardiac events, especially among high-risk individuals. People who benefit from statin therapy include those who are known to have atherosclerosis; those with LDL (bad) cholesterol levels greater than or equal to 190mg/dl; those with diabetes age 40 to 75; and those who have a calculated 10-year ASCVD (arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease) risk greater than or equal to 7.5 percent, determined through a risk assessment.

Despite all the available drugs, it’s hard to beat the benefits of lifestyle modifications. Don’t forget to visit your doctor regularly to learn about the many ways to maintain your healthy heart.


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Written by Bernard Gros

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