Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women and people of most racial and ethnic groups. In fact, it accounts for 1 in every 4 deaths in the United States. The most common type of heart disease among U.S. adults is coronary artery disease (CAD). However, nearly half of all CAD deaths (people under age 65) could be avoided by making a few healthy lifestyle changes.
Coronary artery disease develops when the blood vessels that supply your heart become damaged or diseased. It is caused by a build-up of plaque along the walls of the arteries, which leads to narrowing over time. This narrowing then limits blood flow to the heart.
CAD symptoms may include chest pain, weakness, dizziness, pain in the arms or shoulder, shortness of breath or heart attack and the best treatment option is prevention.
How to improve heart health
Whether you’re looking for ways to keep your heart healthy or to strengthen a weak heart there are a number of things you can do:
- Move your body
Your heart is a muscle, and as with any muscle, exercise will make it stronger. In fact, one of the most important things you can do for your heart is to establish a daily exercise routine. If you’re new to exercising, be sure to talk to your doctor first. The best exercises for your heart include walking, weight training, swimming, yoga, interval training and cycling.
- Quit smoking
Smoking is linked to heart disease because it increases your heart rate, tightens major arteries and can lead to an irregular heart rhythm, all of which make your heart work harder (but not in a good way). Smoking also raises blood pressure, which increases your risk of stroke.
- Eat heart-healthy foods
Leafy green vegetables are high in vitamin K and nitrates, which can help lower blood pressure and improve arterial function. Eating more heart-healthy foods can also lower your risk of obesity, uncontrolled diabetes and heart disease.
- Manage your stress
Stress can lead to higher blood pressure, faster heart rate and an increased risk of blood clots (which increases the risk of heart attack). Chronic stress also puts your body in unhealthy, persistently elevated levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which can increase blood sugars, triglycerides, cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Get more omega-3 fatty acids
Try supplements or focus on eating oily fish, like salmon, a few times a week to lower your risk of coronary artery disease. Omega-3s lower triglyceride levels while increasing high-density lipoproteins (e.g., good cholesterol), which help keep fatty deposits from clogging up your arteries.
- Drink in moderation
To improve heart health men should limit their alcohol intake to two per day and women should have no more than one. Drinking too much can cause your heart to become larger and weaker than normal, a condition called cardiomyopathy.
- Keep your teeth and gums healthy
Periodontal (gum) disease may be associated with heart disease. The harmful bacteria in your mouth may enter the bloodstream through a small sore or injury, which can lead to inflammation throughout the body, weakening your heart.
If you’d like to find out how you can keep your heart as healthy as possible, your doctor can help you create a plan. This plan may include specific dietary and exercise recommendations as well as a schedule of regular checkups and health screenings. Now is the perfect time to take charge of your health.
Coastal Urgent Care of Gonzales is open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. for walk-in appointments.