Cindy Peters, RN, MSN, ACNP-BC, heart failure nurse practitioner, MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute, Long Beach Medical Center
Each year, about 610,000 lives are claimed from heart disease, making it the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. More than 525,000 Americans have a heart attack and an additional 210,000 have a second or subsequent heart attack. Nearly half of these will occur without warning signs. Knowing the risk factors of heart disease is the first step in preventing heart disease or taking steps to reverse it.
The more risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing heart disease. Additionally, the intensity of each risk factor can affect your risk level.
Smoking is a leading cause of coronary artery disease. About 20 percent of all deaths from heart disease in the U.S. are directly related to smoking. Quitting now can greatly reduce your risk of disease, including heart disease, heart attack and high blood pressure, as well as improve your overall health.
Improving your blood pressure and cholesterol can be as simple as improving your diet.
- Become educated and aware of the foods you eat. It is important to read and understand food labels to make heart-healthy choices.
- Eat more vegetables, fruit and whole wheat.
- Limit salt intake.
- Limit unhealthy fats and cholesterol.
Watching your weight also can help decrease your risk for heart disease. Get moving and work out at least 30 minutes every day. Exercise helps improve heart health and can even reverse heart disease risk factors.
High blood glucose levels increase your risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, which can lead to heart disease. If you already have been diagnosed with diabetes, maintaining an optimal glucose level can reduce your risk.
Another controllable risk factor for heart disease is stress. Too much stress can lead to heart disease and high blood pressure if left unmanaged. As stress levels increase, so does your risk for developing heart disease. Meditation can bring about a state of deep relaxation, which can decrease your heart rate and blood pressure and slow down your breathing. This gives your cardiovascular system rest, in turn reducing stress.
In addition to making your lifestyle more heart healthy, it is important to make sure you have regular check-ups on your heart. The MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Long Beach Medical Center, offers private, personalized consultations with a cardiology nurse practitioner. The $55 heart screening includes a 12-lead electrocardiogram; cholesterol and blood sugar testing; blood pressure, weight and body mass index calculations; and a review of your eating habits and activity choices. To schedule a screening, call 562.933.2460.