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How to Increase Your Heart Health

Everyone knows February brings Valentine’s Day and heart-filled celebrations, but did you know that it’s also American Heart Month? This national celebration aims to raise awareness about heart disease and stroke, in order for people to build healthier lives.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S. is heart disease, but you don’t have to give your whole heart away this Valentine’s Day. Making healthier choices can lower your risk and increase your heart health, so that you can share it with those you love.

Lower sodium and bad (LDL) cholesterol. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a sodium intake of less than 2,300 mg per day. Instead of piling on the salt, try adding flavor to your foods with spices. Checking the labels on processed foods can also help you adequately monitor your sodium intake. Make an effort to lower your LDL levels by adding more fruits, vegetables and nuts to your diet. Staying away from fast foods and eating out less by cooking nutritious meals at home will also help with both your sodium and LDL levels.

Beyond Cholesterol. I recommend my patients not only to track total cholesterol, LDL and HDL but also to get their cholesterol particle size tested as well.  Most people don’t realize that the size (not just quantity) is vitally important for both LDL and HDL.  Allow me to explain, if two twins have identical total cholesterol, the same LDL and HDL the size LDL is vitally important, a “B” pattern is a higher risk than an “A” pattern.  Certainly one wants to have a low LDL count, yet it is also important to have an “A” pattern which is a large buoyant particle size.  So I encourage everyone to get an even more indepth cholesterol test to get the full picture.

My patients also routinely get their cardio-CRP (C-reactive protein), fibrinogen and homocysteine levels measured that serve as independent risk factors for heart disease.

Get fit. Regular physical activity is imperative to having a healthy heart. The CDC recommends committing to exercising five times or 150 minutes per week. Be sure to schedule your workouts and treat them like they’re an appointment you can’t miss. And make it fun: start a cycling class with friends or try out a new physical adventure like cross country skiing or snowshoeing. You can also download free fitness apps to your smartphone to increase your motivation.

Control blood pressure. Maintaining a normal blood pressure helps lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. Get your numbers checked and know what they mean: a normal reading is under 120 systolic and under 80 diastolic. Talk to your doctor if your numbers are high, take medicines if needed and prescribed, limit your alcohol intake and take some time each day to maintain your stress levels through meditation and mindfulness practices.   Remember life events aren’t worth overly stressing about, what is done is done, and the future is yours to shape.

Quit smoking. Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. Talk to your health care provider, family and friends and let them know you want to quit and need their support. Change your routine so that you’re doing things and going places where smoking isn’t allowed. Find other habits to fill your spare time, like starting a new exercise program or hobby. You can also sign up for additional support through government-based help lines such as 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Shrink your waistline. You don’t need to be super thin, but carrying too much weight around the middle area can increase your blood pressure, negatively affect your blood lipids and cause damage to your heart. Make an effort to lower your caloric intake, increase your cardio and incorporate abdominal exercises into your workout regimen.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2015). February Is Heart Month. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/features/heartmonth/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2015). 28 Days to a Healthier Heart. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/salt/healthy_heart_tips.htm

Coutinho, Thais, MD, et al. (May 2011). Central Obesity and Survival in Subjects with Coronary Artery Disease. Retrieved from http://content.onlinejacc.org/article.aspx?articleid=1146470

Krucik, George, MD. (March 28, 2013). 28 Healthy Heart Tips. Retrieved from http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/healthy-heart-tips

U.S. Deartment of Health and Human Services. (2015). American Heart Month. Retrieved from http://healthfinder.gov/nho/februarytoolkit.aspx

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Health Tips On the Go!

Improve Posture

  • 1.Avoid slouching. Be aware of your posture as you walk, sit, and drive, keep shoulders squared and head pulled back and up.

  • 2.Imagine a thread pulling the top of your head toward the ceiling. Visualization can help improve your sense of position.

  • 3.If your job requires you to sit for long periods, take frequent breaks to stand, stretch and shake it out.

  • 4.Maintain a strong core to help support proper posture. Add core-training exercises to your daily routine.

  • 5.A firm mattress and ergonomic pillow help achieve proper back support while you sleep, so you'll stand straighter in the a.m.

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