According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year, with more than 735,000 Americans likely to experience a heart attack in 2017. These numbers are even more staggering when reduced to the average number of residents in Portland. One in four men and women in the Rose City may be affected by a traumatic heart-related ailment this year.
While these numbers may be startling, they are not a reason to be scared. The fact is, with a bit of knowledge and some simple lifestyle adjustments, we can dramatically reduce those figures throughout the region.
What is heart/cardiovascular disease?
The truth is, “heart disease” is not one single health problem. The Mayo Clinic classifies heart disease as a range of conditions that may affect the heart, including blood vessel diseases, heart rhythm problems and congenital defects. While there are many conditions that fall under the umbrella of heart disease, all with a substantial impact on the health of patients, many can be treated and even prevented with some very basic lifestyle changes.
Who is at risk?
Understanding the risks of heart disease can help you fight for a healthy heart.
Step one is to speak with your cardiologist or general practitioner if you have any concern about your health, or if you are a member of a demographic at higher risk for heart disease. Potential groups at higher risk for heart disease include residents originating from the
southeastern United States and/or of African American descent, as well as those who currently suffer from diabetes, are overweight, maintain a poor diet, consume excessive amounts of alcohol or participate in limited physical activity. It’s never too early to make an appointment.
How do you fight heart disease?
For the most part, heart disease does not present with notable symptoms. Often the warning signs are things like high blood pressure, so you may be suffering from a health issue and not even realize it until it’s too late. If you want to take a proactive stand against heart disease, there are a lot of small choices you can make throughout the day that can help:
- Reduce your sodium — Too much sodium can contribute to high blood pressure. A low-salt diet and reduced-sodium food options will make a big difference in sodium intake whether dining out or preparing your own meals in the kitchen.
- Don’t smoke — An elevated potential for heart disease is one of the many risks associated with smoking. Stop as soon as possible. If you need help quitting, work with your doctor to develop a tobacco-free plan.
- Consume alcohol moderately — The occasional drink is nothing to worry about, but excessive drinking raises the level of fat in your bloodstream, increasing blood pressure, which can lead to weight gain and future damage to your heart. Moderation is the key. The American Heart Association has some tips if you’d like help lowering your risk.
- Adopt healthy eating habits — Obesity, or even being a few pounds overweight, increases the risk of developing heart disease. Fatty foods, high-sugar and low-nutrient foods are detrimental to your health if binged upon and not accompanied by a strong mix of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. It never hurts to balance out that slice of pizza with a nice salad!
- Exercise — When we sit at desks all day, the lack of stimulation can weaken our hearts. If our hearts are already under strain due to stress, diet or hereditary factors, this can be a recipe for disaster. Regular exercise — whether that’s a daily CrossFit habit or lunchtime walk — can help keep your heart strong and healthy, making it easier to fight heart disease. The smallest addition of movement to your daily routine can make a significant difference. Taking the stairs is just one lifestyle change that will benefit you immediately.
- Know your numbers — If you find yourself at risk for heart disease, you may feel a bit of anxiety as you wait between doctor visits to see how your efforts are improving your health. In addition to monitoring your weight and body measurements, a great way to track your progress is by monitoring your cholesterol and blood pressure. Through regular check-ins with your physician, you can plot these numbers and see how your body is responding to different lifestyle adjustments. The American Heart Association has developed an online system to help you manage and understand blood pressure, body mass index and cholesterol.
National Wear Red Day means more to Rip City than a Blazers home game. On the first Friday in February, Go Red for Women, a program associated with the American Heart Association, encourages everyone across the nation to wear red and raise awareness for the leading cause of death for both women and men: heart disease. Doctors and nurses at all Portland Clinic locations will be “suiting up” on February 3 to mark this important day. We encourage our patients and their families to join us!
You are in charge
While the risk of heart disease may seem high, remember many heart-related ailments can be prevented and treated with a lifestyle change. The most important aspect to developing a strong heart defense is to work with your doctor to plan your individual health routine. Before starting a new diet, fitness routine or treatment program, check in with your doctor to make sure the program you select is safe and will help you reach your goals. Without the supervision of your physician, the potential for increasing risks, even while attempting to curb heart disease, is higher if not properly maintained.
Need help? Have more questions?
The Cardiovascular Team at The Portland Clinic includes board-certified cardiologists and certified adult nurse practitioners, along with registered nurses, certified medical assistants and cardiac and vascular ultrasound sonographers. At each location, doctors and nurses offer unsurpassed care for a full spectrum of cardiovascular conditions, including coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, arrhythmias, valve disorders, congenital heart disease, hypertension, peripheral vascular disease, aortic disease and aneurysms, and pacemakers.
If you or someone you know is concerned about their heart health, please call The Portland Clinic and schedule a checkup at 503-221-0161 x 2324 or visit ThePortlandClinic.com. Join us this month, and all year, in making sure you have a healthy heart. Please note, we cannot provide medical advice to nonpatients.