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    8 Steps to Living Heart Healthy

    Terry Gehlhausen, DO Deaconess Clinic Family Medicine 02/03/2015

    Heart Disease is the leading cause of death in this country.  Here are some suggestions to reduce your risk of heart disease so you can celebrate more Valentine’s Days together with your loved ones.

    1. Reduce high blood pressure. 
    The incidence of strokes and heart attacks has been reduced significantly in the last 30 years because of better control of high blood pressure. Taking your medicine daily and having your blood pressure checked frequently is the cornerstone of treatment and prevention of heart disease.

    2. Avoid foods high in salt.
    Salt can increase blood pressure and cause swelling. Most of the salt we eat is already in food, not from a saltshaker. Processed foods such as pickles, olives, salted nuts, soy sauce, hot dogs, bacon, processed cheese, luncheon meat, potato chips, pretzels, and ketchup are especially high in salt. Bread, buns, and bagels are also surprisingly high in salt.  Drink extra water to flush out extra salt.

    3. Reduce cholesterol by eating less meat.
    Daily bacon, sausage, and burgers are easy to avoid.  Also reduce whole milk, chips, and other foods made with coconut oil or palm oil.  Try to choose healthy proteins such as grilled fish, grilled chicken without the skin, and nuts.  Limit yourself to 4-6 ounces of lean meat a day, and eat more fruits, vegetables, and cereals.  Polyunsaturated vegetable oils like canola, soybean, and olive oil are recommended when oil is needed.  Despite dietary modifications, elevated cholesterol is frequently hereditary.  Get your cholesterol checked and use medicine if needed.  Some have even been proven to cause regression in atherosclerotic plaque. Several statin medications are now generic and inexpensive.

    4. Regular exercise strengthens your heart.
    Exercise protects your heart by reducing body weight, increasing your lungs ability to extract oxygen from air, helping your heart to develop extra (collateral) circulation, and by increasing the amount of good cholesterol (HDL) in your blood.

    5. Exercise also reduces stress and promotes better sleep.
    Aerobic exercise is possible at any age but this type of sustained, vigorous exercise should be started only after consulting your doctor.

    6. Reduce calories by emphasizing foods low in fat.
    Low fat foods include fresh vegetables, fruit, cottage cheese, cereals, and skim or soy milk instead of 2% or whole milk, and sherbet instead of ice cream. Always avoid liquids high in sugar (e.g. soft drinks, sweetened tea, and excessive alcohol), and any food high in sugar such as candy, cakes, cookies, syrup, donuts, pie, and ice cream. Other foods high in fat and calories include salad dressing, all fried foods, luncheon meats, potato chips, sauces, gravies, bacon, and sausage. Learn to count calories.

    7. Diabetes is a major risk for heart disease.
    One third of all diabetics in America today are undiagnosed.  Get tested yearly. If you are a diabetic keep your Hemoglobin A1C under 7 by working with your doctor.  Taking medication, routine blood sugar testing, dietary modification, and exercise is the key to management.

    8. Be smoke free.

    Although starting a regular exercise program and reducing salt and cholesterol are important, no health habit has a greater effect on our heart’s health than becoming a non-smoker. Smokers have a 70% higher incidence of heart disease than non-smokers. The good news for smokers is that the risk of having a heart attack is reduced immediately after you quit smoking, regardless of how long you have smoked or how much you have smoked.
    Try incorporating these tips to have a heart healthy life.


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