Though it is largely preventable, heart disease ends one in four lives in the United States every year and is the nation’s leading cause of death. To help fight this, health organizations across the greater Portland area celebrate American Heart Month every February alongside colleagues all over the country. There are several factors that can contribute to heart disease, but one of the major warning signs is your blood pressure. According to the Center for Disease Control,
“More than 67 million Americans have high blood pressure. People with high blood pressure are four times more likely to die from a stroke and three times more likely to die from heart disease, compared to those with normal blood pressure.”
In addition to blood pressure, a variety of factors, including lifestyle and diet, can offer warning signs that someone is at risk. While this may sound scary — and it certainly must be taken seriously — the positive news to keep in mind is that heart disease can be prevented in most cases. Cardiologist Dr. Jay Shah has assembled several ways to help keep your heart healthy all year round. In honor of American Heart Month, we’ve collected a few of the top tips to get you started:
Start with your doctor — If you are worried about your heart or if you are in a demographic category at an elevated risk for high blood pressure, such as residents from the Southeast United States and those of African American descent, talk with your doctor. If your blood pressure is high, you can work together on a plan to bring your numbers back to a safe level.
Hold the salt — Too much sodium can contribute to high blood pressure. Following a low-salt diet and selecting reduced-sodium food options at the grocery store can make a big difference.
Quit smoking — One of the many negative health impacts from smoking is an elevated risk of heart disease. If you need help giving it up, ask your doctor for help creating a plan to quit tobacco.
Gut-check your diet — Being obese or even overweight can raise your odds of developing heart disease. If your diet consists of fatty foods or treats laden with empty calories, start to incorporate more fruits, vegetables and whole grains into your routine.
Get moving — Regular exercise can help keep your heart strong and functioning at top form. Living a sedentary life without much movement can put extra strain on your heart which can lead to problems. Even walking 20-30 minutes a day can make a big difference.
Avoid excessive alcohol — The occasional drink is nothing to worry about, but excessive drinking raises the level of fat in your bloodstream, known as triglycerides. These elevated levels can increase your blood pressure, lead to weight gain and cause damage to your heart. The most important thing to remember is to talk with your doctor. Do not jump into some sort of treatment without first consulting a trained physician, because you could wind up making things much worse. Your doctor can help you figure out if you are at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease or other cardiac issues, and then help you set up a safe plan to bring you back to full health. If you or someone you know is concerned about their heart health, please call The Portland Clinic and schedule a checkup at 503-223-3113 or visit ThePortlandClinic.com. Join us this month, and all year, in making sure you have a healthy heart.