If you want to live a long and healthy life, then you have to take care of the source of your life. Your beating heart is the very thing that keeps you alive. An organ that is only about five inches long and weighs less than a pound is arguably the most important organ in your body. And yet, we all tend to take every beat for granted and fill our lives with so many things that hurt our hearts. February is American Heart Month, a month dedicated to reminding us how significant our heart is and what we can do to take care of it.
What Is Heart Disease?
Heart disease is a broad term that encompasses many dangerous and sometimes life-threatening heart issues. Many people tend to use cardiovascular disease and heart disease interchangeably, but cardiovascular disease refers to conditions revolving around narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to heart attack, chest pain, and stroke. Heart attack occurs when a blood clot blocks the blood from flowing into the heart. This may damage, or even destroy, the heart muscle. When arteries to the brain are narrowed or blocked and prevent blood flow to the brain, a stroke has occured. Heart disease, on the other hand, is an umbrella term covering issues of the heart muscle, valves, and rhythm.
Currently, heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women. In fact, heart disease is the cause of death for every one in three women each year. Still, men are at a greater risk of contracting heart disease—especially African American men in the southeast region of the United States. This may be because 40% of African Americans have high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is one of the greatest risk factors that narrows the blood vessels and can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Risk factors also include high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, inactivity, and stress. Age also plays a role as your risk for heart disease increases with your increasing age. Over time, there is a greater chance for arteries to become narrowed or damaged, and the heart muscle to become thicker and weaker. Smoking and a diet high in fat, sugar, salt, and cholesterol can both contribute to the risk of heart disease.
Preventing Heart Disease
There are several ways you can step in and begin taking better care of your heart. By emphasizing heart health in your life, you very well may save it! One of the most important things you can do to keep your heart healthy is exercise. Even just walking 30 minutes a day, three times a week, will help strengthen and protect your heart. Maintain a healthy weight. Exercise will certainly help, but so will eating a heart-healthy diet. Consume low amounts of sodium and season your meals with herbs and spices instead. Avoid foods that are high in saturated fats. Quit smoking. Nicotine constricts the blood vessels, and carbon monoxide can damage the inner lining making smokers more susceptible to heart attacks. Last but not least, take control over your blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes. Talk to your doctor about regular testing so that you can stay on top of health conditions that threaten your heart.
At TrustCare Heart Clinic, we have special heart screenings that give you all of the information you need about your heart health. Each of our screenings include a BMI assessment, screening for high blood pressure and glucose, a lipid panel screening, and an electrocardiogram. If you have a family history of heart disease, or believe you are at risk, schedule a screening today. Don’t let another month go by without taking care of your heart.