Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Recent statistics show approximately 650,000 people die annually from heart disease. Every year approximately 800,000 people also experience their first heart attack often leading down the road to more serious heart disease. The cost of care for heart disease runs well over 10 billion annually. This disease takes a great toll of many people’s lives. There are numerous things you can do to help lessen your risk of developing heart disease. Most people think of coronary heart disease which is the narrowing of the arteries leading to the heart. However there are many different types of heart disease. These include arrhythmias, congenital heart disease, blood vessel disease, heart failure and congenital heart disease among others.
Arrhythmia: The heart normally beats 60 to 100 times per minute. When there is any abnormality it is considered an arrhythmia. This can occur in various forms; a rhythm change or a rate change to higher or lower than normal. Coronary heart disease: This is when the arteries harden often leading to potential heart attacks. This is due to a decrease in the oxygen that goes to the heart. Heart Failure: This actually is referring to the heart not pumping as effectively as it should. This affects over 5 million Americans, particularly people over the age of 65. It could result in water retention, swelling and shortness of breath. Congenital Heart Disease: This is a disorder that someone is born with. Sometimes the symptoms appear immediately but occasionally they may not appear until the person becomes an adult. Often this is hereditary or the result of some type of viral infection the fetus may have been exposed too. Congenital heart disease can affect the heart structure or blood vessels.
Testing for Heart Disease: There are many diagnostic tests that can be performed to determine if you have heart disease. Your doctor will determine which tests are best for you based on various factors including symptoms and medical history. An initial physical exam will include listening to your heart with a stethoscope to check for any abnormal sounds or rhythms. Your blood pressure will be checked and x rays may be taken to view the shape of the heart to check for abnormalities. If the doctor feels you need more testing that will be determined based on the results of the initial physical exam.
Dietary Considerations: It is important for everyone to follow a heart healthy diet. Doing so will help lesson your risk of developing heart disease in the future. If you have heart disease it is even more important to eat a healthy well balanced diet. This will reduce bad cholesterol also known as LDL, and lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Eat Good Fats Only: Good fats are ones that are high in Omega 3 fatty acids. These can be found in fish such as salmon and tuna. It is also found in vegetable oils such as olive and canola oil. You should limit saturated fats and trans fats as these are unhealthier for the heart. Increase dietary fiber: This also helps to lower LDL levels. Fiber can be found in vegetables, whole grains, beans and fruit. Lean Protein: Incorporate lean proteins in your diet. These can be found in chicken, turkey, seafood. Occasional lean cuts of beef are okay but beef does have higher levels of saturated fat so moderation is in order. Complex Carbs: These carbs are good for you and include whole grain bread and brown rice. Avoid simple carbohydrates because they contain sugar. Examples include soda, cookies, ice cream, etc. Regular meals: Avoid skipping meals or any type of crash diets. You need to always eat a healthy well balanced diet and have three complete meals daily. Or five to six mini meals is another option. This will help keep blood sugar levels stabilized as well. Limit your sodium or salt intake.
Exercise: To help prevent heart disease an exercise program is very important. If you already have heart disease it is equally important to stay active and fit. This should always be done with the authorization of your medical doctor to avoid any risks to your health. Your doctor will determine a program that is appropriate for you and your particular condition. What exercise does for the heart is amazing. The heart muscles themselves become strong and blood flow is improved as well. Of course exercise also keeps your weight under control and also helps raise your HDL or good cholesterol levels.
You should be doing a combination of cardiovascular and aerobic type exercise. Aerobic exercise is the most beneficial for your heart. This exercise lowers blood pressure as well as heart rate. Cardiovascular exercise is also good as it works the large muscle groups of your body. It increases oxygen levels and helps to strengthen your heart and lungs. Some good aerobic exercise choices would be walking, bike riding or any type of aerobic dance activity, among others. You should aim to exercise 3 times weekly for 30 minutes at a time. You can break up the 30 minute program into three-ten minute exercise spurts at different times of the day. To avoid any problems always do a warm up and cool down when exercising to ease your body into physical movement. Does not exercise immediately after eating; always wait at least one hour. It is important to find an exercise program that you are comfortable with and that you can stick with. Consistency is the key. Finding someone to exercise with can also help you to stay committed as it provides additional encouragement and support.
Precautions: If you have heart disease you should always take precautions when exercising. If you feel any of the follow symptoms you need to immediately stop exercising. These include; chest or arm pain, trouble breathing, heart palpitations or extreme fatigue. Elevate your feet in a resting position and contact your doctor. Your doctor will know best if this is a sign that you need a change in medication or changes in your diet. As with any changes in diet or lifestyle always consult with your medical doctor first especially if you have any disease or are taking prescription medications.