February brings with it a sea of red from Valentine’s Day greetings to messages promoting heart disease awareness month. And, while cupid can get hearts beating faster in a good way, many of us may feel aflutter with anxiety when we think about our own risk for heart disease.
Most of us know the importance of good heart health, but with the enormous amount of information on what-to-do and what-not-to-do, it can be overwhelming. So, we asked Dr. Scott Ross, a Roper St. Francis cardiothoracic surgeon, for some basic heart health tips.
When it comes to heart health, prevention is key empathizes Dr. Ross. To keep your heart healthy, start by considering the leading risk factors for heart disease: hypertension, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, poor diet, obesity and physical inactivity. With those risk factors in mind begin with the prevention activities that you have control over to curb them including:
Knowing your genetics
“If you have a family history of heart disease, talk to your doctor and take your heart health very seriously,” says Dr. Ross.
Like all muscles, the more you use and challenge your heart, the stronger it will be. Aim to get your heart rate elevated for at least 30 minutes a day, recommends Dr. Ross. Those with a personal history of heart disease or who are inactive should talk to their doctor before starting a fitness regime.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, any amount of smoking, even occasional, damages blood vessels.
A diet high in sodium can lead to hypertension while consumption of saturated fat can increase cholesterol. To keep blood flowing smoothly through your heart, cut your intake of both while eating more nutrient-rich fruits, veggies and whole grains.
Excessive drinking wears out your organs, including your heart, says Dr. Ross. If you do drink alcohol, do so in moderation (an average of one to two drinks per day for men, and one drink for women, according to the American Heart Association).
Visiting your doctor
Regular screenings for cholesterol, diabetes and other conditions will help you stay on top of your heart health.