Although heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk. Jessica Barkdull, MSN, NP-C, PPG - Cardiology, shares some of the best ways to turn your health around, from your heart to your head, as well as an exciting new option for those striving to get ahead of the risk.
9 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease
1. Don’t use tobacco. If you use tobacco, make a plan to quit. If you are having difficulty with this on your own, seek help from a healthcare provider.
2. Address high cholesterol. Know your numbers. If your cholesterol is high, talk with your healthcare provider about lifestyle changes and, if necessary, medications you can take to reduce your risk.
3. Address high blood pressure. As a general rule, blood pressure should consistently be < 140/90. Weight loss and following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet are two of the many lifestyle changes that can positively impact your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is elevated on a consistent basis, discuss this with your healthcare provider, as medication may be needed to lower your blood pressure.
4. Address elevated blood glucose/diabetes. Just like knowing your cholesterol numbers, it is also important to know your blood glucose (blood sugar). If elevated, exercise, dietary changes and weight loss can help. If you have diabetes, lifestyle changes along with medications are important to control blood glucose.
5. Maintain a healthy weight. Weight issues are common in the United States with 1/3 of the population is categorized as obese (CDC, 2017). If you are overweight or obese, work toward a healthy body mass index (BMI) with lifestyle changes, which include daily physical activity and healthy eating patterns.
6. Consume a healthy diet. According to the American Society of Preventive Cardiology (ASPC), fad diets are not recommended for long-term weight loss. Research shows that the two best diets to improve your cardiovascular risk are the DASH and Mediterranean diets (ASPC, 2015).
7. Exercise. Get moving! If you are not physically active, you have a 30-40 percent increase in cardiovascular risk (ASPC, 2015). Activity goals for good heart health: At least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity weekly or at least 90 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly.
8. Limit alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol use can increase blood pressure and triglycerides, and can also lead to weight gain from empty calories.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends moderate alcohol intake:
For men – limit alcohol to 1-2 drinks* per day
For women – limit alcohol to 1 drink* per day
*A drink is 1 12-ounce beer, 4 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits.
9. Control stress. There is a strong correlation between chronically elevated stress levels and heart disease. Routine physical activity, healthy eating patterns and adequate sleep can help reduce stress. Classes such as mindfulness-based stress reduction, yoga and Tai Chi have been shown to be helpful as well. If you feel your stress is unmanageable, discuss options with your healthcare provider. He or she may recommend cognitive behavioral therapy or other stress-reduction options.
Would you like help managing your risk factors? There’s a new option!
A preventive cardiovascular clinic recently opened at the Parkview Heart Institute, providing multi-disciplinary care to patients at risk of heart disease. The Cardiovascular Health and Wellness Clinic allows patients to meet with a nurse practitioner to review their personal and family health history, as well as assess their overall cardiovascular risk, and complete a biometric assessment along with a comprehensive physical exam. Patients may also consult with a dietitian, enroll in life coaching, are encouraged to initiate a cardiovascular-oriented exercise program and take part in group education, in addition to other self-improvement directives related to cardiovascular health.
To learn more or to make an appointment at the Cardiovascular Health and Wellness Clinic, call (260) 266-5680.