Have A Heart To Heart With Your Parents
Knowing your family health history can be very instrumental in managing your own heart health. Basically examining your family’s health history especially your parents, siblings and grandparents can provide you with a possible look into the future where your own health is concerned. Health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol can all lead to heart disease. When members of your family have a history of these diseases this can mean these conditions can be passed down to you and may become a health issue of your own now or down the road.
But, you can alter your heart health future by being aware of your possible hereditary risks and altering your health habits and diet accordingly. In the United States, more than 600,000 people die each year from heart disease, with knowledge of your family’s health history and an ounce of prevention you won’t have to be one of them.
What You Can Do To Prevent Heart Disease
Having a healthy heart isn’t so hard to achieve, it just requires being mindful of your health and happiness in general. Below you will find 5 areas of wellness you can focus on to achieve heart healthiness:
Healthy Heart Nutrition
Incorporating a healthy diet simply means controlling how much you eat at each meal/serving/snack and is just as important as what you’re eating is to achieving a healthy diet. In recent years Americans have gotten used to larger and larger portion sizes, it seems everything is super-sized these days, including the utensils we eat them with. Don’t go there! Portion size control is instrumental to a healthy balanced diet.
A balanced healthy diet consists of lean proteins, fish, vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, and healthy fats/oils as well as plenty of water. As a rule, your plate (meal) should contain 1/3 protein (meat, chicken, or fish) and 2/3 vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats.
- Research has shown us that using smaller plates or bowls including smaller forks and spoons can help you avoid overeating. Skip seconds!
- Keep track of how many servings of each food group you’re eating at each meal/ daily.
- Familiarize yourself with portion sizes: ounces, cups, pieces i.e. typically a portion of pasta is ½ cup, meat, fish, or chicken is approximately the size of a closed fist.
- Limit unhealthy fats in your diet (Saturated and Trans fats). The American Heart Association recommends limiting Saturated and Trans fats in a 2,000 calorie diet to 14 g of Saturated fat and 2 g of Trans fat per day.
- Eat your food slowly and chew well, take time to savor the food you eat and really enjoy it.
Exercise is a key element in heart health and will not only affect your current heart health, but can have lasting effects on your future heart health. And the best part of exercise is that you can achieve the benefits without it costing you a penny or involving medication/side effects.
Walking at a moderate pace (cardio exercise) for 30 minutes each day, five days a week can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease (by double digits) and when you combine cardio exercise with a healthy diet you can reduce your chances of developing diabetes by 50% percent.
To achieve additional health benefits you can add weight training to your exercise routine. With just 30 minutes per week, you can reduce by 25% percent your chances of developing heart disease. Weight training can also benefit you by reducing your risks for osteoporosis, as a bi-product of weight training you can strengthen your muscle tone and improve posture, this helps to prevent osteoporosis.
And finally, not only does regular exercise improve blood sugar (diabetes), blood pressure and cholesterol levels; it can also brighten up your mental outlook on life. Exercise can reduce fatigue, increase your energy level and even lessen the risk of depression or the effects depression can have on you (exercise should not replace prescription medication(s) you may be taking for depression, contact your physician).
Reducing Your Stress Level
“Reduce the stress in your life,” this is one of the most scoffed at suggestions made by cardiologists or psychiatrists to their patients. Just how’re we supposed to reduce our stress level? There is no one answer, or one size fits all approach to stress reduction and/or achieving a happier outlook on life.
But there are some tried and true methods you can try out to see what works best for you:
- Exercise – Boosts your mood, aids in getting proper rest and is a proven stress reliever.
- Meditation – Can reduce risk of heart attack by 40% in people with heart disease.
- Yoga – This low impact blend of stretching, breathing, meditation and spiritual connection is a great and enjoyable stress buster. Yoga, Tai Chi and other forms of mind/body exercise can lower blood pressure and heart rate impressively.
- Reiki Therapy – This gentle touch and hand movement therapy performed by a practioner has been reported to significantly reduce anxiety and stress in patients.
- Psychiatric/Talk Therapy – There are various forms of talk therapy you can benefit from in reducing anxiety, stress and depression. Whether it’s with a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or member of the clergy, talk therapy works for many people.
Some people require medication to control or treat their depression. Though you may find additional relief with the above-mentioned strategies, but you they (above strategies) should not be used as a replacement for medication without consulting your doctor.
Knowing And Understanding Your Risk Factors
There are many variables that can contribute to your risk for heart disease, some you can control and others you can’t; knowing which ones you can and can’t control can make all the difference to your heart health and management strategy. Your family and personal health histories and your lifestyle are all major contributors.
Below are additional conditions or lifestyle choices they’re part of how you and your healthcare provider can determine your risk for heart disease:
- Smoking – Smoking is one of the most serious risk factor contributors that you do have a choice about. If you do nothing else to reduce your risk for heart disease QUIT smoking.
- High Blood Pressure – Knowing what your blood pressure is will be the first step in determining if your blood pressure is a risk factor for you. Check your blood pressure regularly at home or your local drugstore. A blood pressure of 140 or more systolic (top number) (i.e. 140/90) or higher than 90 diastolic (bottom number) based on repeated readings is considered high blood pressure.
- Diabetes – Diabetes is one of the more serious risk factors for heart disease, in fact, the risk is compared to that of a person who’s already had a heart attack. Diabetes can sometimes be controlled or eliminated through healthy eating and exercise regimens. But for others medication is required to keep their blood sugar level in a normal range. Again, it’s important to know what your blood sugar level is. A diagnosis of diabetes is made when you have a (fasting) blood sugar level above 120 for more than one day in the period of one week.
- High Bad Cholesterol – High levels of your LDL (bad cholesterol) level can cause build up of a plaque in your arteries which can restrict or block blood flow through your arteries, putting you at high risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. An LDL level below 130 is normal for most healthy people. However, if you have a history of artery blockage or diabetes, keeping your LDL below 70 is the optimal number and 100 at the maximum. Having your cholesterol checked on a regular basis by your physician is important in managing your heart health. There are prescription drugs you can take to lower your cholesterol if you can’t seem to get it in the normal range with a healthy diet and exercise, which does happen sometimes.
- Low Good Cholesterol – Just as you have bad cholesterol, there’s also good cholesterol, it’s called HDL. This type of cholesterol functions as a sort of filter for your arteries, literally collecting the excess bad LDL and thus keeping your arteries plaque/clog free, reducing your risk of heart disease. For women your HDL level should be above 50 and men should be above 40.
- Family Health History – You don’t have any control over your family health history, but knowing what your family’s health history is can be a very important factor in how you manage your heart health. For example, if you have numerous family members with heart disease it’s important to know who and when they developed it in order to determine your own risk factors for heart disease. For instance, if you have a parent or sibling(s) with heart disease before age 50 you’ll be at a much higher risk than if say your grandmother developed heart disease at age 75. The younger your relatives are who were diagnosed with heart disease, the higher the percentage of your “inherited” risk for heart disease will be.
- Conclusion – As stated earlier there is no magic bullet for heart disease, but combining all of the tools you have at your disposal and putting them into action can greatly reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Finding the right healthcare professional to guide you in monitoring and managing your heart health is the best way to optimize your options. Together, with your trusted health professional, you can assess all your contributing factors, those you can control as well as those you can’t and create a happy, healthy heart plan for the present and the future.