Here’s to Your Heart
By Presbyterian Heart & Vascular Group, North Dallas LIVING WELL Magazine
Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States? The statistic is a little alarming, but there is an up side. You can lower your chance for heart disease simply by being in-the-know.
By understanding what causes common heart conditions such as heart attack and stroke, you are one step closer to being in control of your heart health. It all starts with knowing your risk factors for heart disease.
Look Beyond Your DNA
It’s true, some heart disease risks are in your genes rather than your behavior. If there’s a history of coronary heart disease (buildup of plaque in the heart’s arteries) in your immediate family, studies show that you are 40 to 60% more likely to develop the condition yourself––and run a greater risk of having a heart attack. But no matter what genes you are born with, you still need to pay attention to your lifestyle.
The thought of having a heart attack can be scary, but certain risk factors can be controlled by you. At Presbyterian Heart & Vascular Group (PHVG), we see individuals on a regular basis who are looking for support in reducing their risk of heart disease. Here are some of the lifestyle changes we recommend to help enhance heart health and conquer heart disease.
- Quit smoking. The risk for heart attack doubles in smokers over nonsmokers. If you smoke, quit. Better yet, never start.
- Improve cholesterol levels. The risk for heart disease increases as your total amount of cholesterol increases. A total cholesterol level over 200––with an HDL or “good” cholesterol level under 40, or an LDL or “bad” cholesterol level over 160––indicates an increased risk for heart disease. As a cardiologist, my interpretation of cholesterol values is always individualized. I have to take into account all of a person’s risk factors when evaluating them for heart disease.
- Control high blood pressure. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the most common heart disease risk factor in the U.S. One in four adults has systolic blood pressure (the upper number) over 140, and/or diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) over 90, which is the definition of hypertension. Again, interpretation of these numbers should be individualized by a physician. If treatment is warranted, today’s blood pressure medications are effective, safe and easy to take.
- Get active. Mild to moderate amounts of physical activity can be beneficial in staving off heart disease. Even leisure-time activities like gardening or walking can lower your risk.
- Eat smart. Fill your plate with foods low in fat and cholesterol, and boost your vitamin intake. Antioxidants and foods such as fish and dark leafy greens have been proven to lower the risk for heart disease.
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts significant strain on your heart and worsens several other heart disease risk factors such as diabetes. Eating right and exercising can go a long way in keeping obesity at bay.
- Keep calm. Manage your stress level and stay positive. Your heart will thank you.
- Control diabetes. This probably goes without saying, but uncontrolled diabetes can lead to significant heart damage including heart attack, or worse.
Are You At Risk?
The first step you can take in preventing heart disease is to calculate your risk. Visit www.YourHeartAge.com to receive an assessment of your cardiovascular health today. The sooner you learn your risks, the sooner you can take measures to minimize them. Here’s to your heart!
For more information about PHVG, which is part of Texas Health Physicians Group, call 214-345-6000 or visit www.PresbyterianHeartandVascular.com.
Physicians employed by Texas Health Physicians Group practice independently, and are not employees or agents of the hospital or Texas Health Resources.