Every 39 seconds, an American experiences a heart attack.
During American Heart Month, dedicate time to prioritize your cardiovascular well-being. Make conscious changes to your diet and exercise habits to decrease the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other related complications.
Prevention is the Best Medicine
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) underscore three pivotal risk factors for heart disease: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoking. Additional risk factors include diabetes and obesity, all of which can be mitigated through lifestyle modifications.
"I always emphasize the significance of preventive measures," says Dr. Heise, Chief Medical Officer at Door County Medical Center (DCMC). "Addressing risk factors early on can significantly reduce the likelihood of heart disease. It's about empowering individuals to take charge of their cardiovascular health."
Physical activity has numerous benefits. It strengthens your heart, improves circulation, reduces stress, and can help achieve weight-loss goals—all of which lower the risk of developing heart disease. As little as 60 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity such as walking briskly helps your heart. For major health benefits, aim for at least 2.5 hours a week
Try these tips from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) to make being active part of your everyday routine:
Add a friend of family member
- Take a yoga or other fitness class online or in person with a friend.
- Share your fitness goals with your spouse or roommate.
- Commit to a walking schedule with a friend, even if you can't walk together.
Do what you love
- If you enjoy the outdoors, try biking, hiking, pickleball or gardening.
- Play with the children in your life.
- Think of physical activity as a special time to refresh your body and mind.
Build activities into your day
- Do strength exercises while watching TV or listening to a podcast.
- Take the stairs.
- Use a workout game on your gaming console.
- Take a walk during lunch.
- Go for a walk or a bike ride before you sit down to enjoy dinner or a movie.
Dr. Heise adds, "Heart health is not just an individual journey—support and encourage each other to make better choices."
A Healthier Relationship with Food
The path to a healthier heart often starts with what's on our plates. Cathy Keller, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Door County Medical Center advises, "Consider your diet a cornerstone of heart health. Embrace nutrient-rich foods, follow heart-healthy eating plans, and let your meals be a celebration of wellness."
The American Heart Association (AHA) and NHLBI recommend the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan in order to reduce the likelihood of developing heart disease. The DASH eating plan requires no special foods and instead provides daily and weekly nutritional goals. This plan recommends:
- Incorporating vegetables, fruits, and whole grains into meals.
- Including fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils.
- Limiting foods high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils like coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils.
- Minimizing the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets.
At Door County Medical Center, we believe that fostering well-being begins with knowledge. Take a moment this February to take stock of your heart health. Schedule a check-up, discuss your risk factors with your healthcare provider, and understand your individual needs. It's a proactive step towards a healthier, more informed you.