MARION -- It's February -- American Heart Month -- a time when we spotlight heart disease, the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one person dies every 36 seconds from heart disease in the U.S.
If you want to reduce your risk for heart disease, you don't have to look far. It starts in your kitchen.
Weighty Effects of the Heart
Carrying excess pounds makes your heart work harder, increasing blood pressure.
"High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke," explains Heartland Regional Family Medicine Specialist Lindsey Sollers. "Being overweight or obese also leads to high cholesterol, another heart disease risk factor that can cause plaque to build up in your arteries and trigger a heart attack. Finally, overweight and obesity are linked to high blood sugar, damaging the nerves and blood vessels in your heart"
On its own, being overweight or obese is taxing on your heart. Over time, those extra pounds you carry on your waist and elsewhere may cause lasting damage to your heart. However, your risk of cardiovascular disease increases even more, when those extra pounds are paired with poor lifestyle choices and other medical conditions.
Lifestyle choices and health conditions that often accompany obesity and lead to heart disease include:
Excessive alcohol intake
High blood pressure
Lack of physical activity
Protect Your Heart
You can fight off heart disease right in your own home. Start today. Here's how.
Get fresh. Stock your fridge with fruits and vegetables, which should make up a large part of your daily diet.
Stay lean. When eating dairy products or meats, go with low-fat and lean options.
Read labels. For maximum heart health, avoid foods with added sugar and excess salt.
You can also protect your heart with a daily walk. Walking 10 minutes three times daily has been shown to improve blood pressure. Limit it to one glass of red wine or the equivalent daily if you drink.
Recognizing early signs of heart disease can help halt disease progression, avoid heart attacks and other serious health problems.
Sollers said, "The early warning signs of heart disease can be easy to overlook. Some symptoms of heart disease don't seem like they're related to the heart at all. In addition to obvious symptoms, such as chest pain or uneven heartbeat, there are more subtle signs." For example:
Feeling fatigued or tiring easily can signify coronary heart disease.
Experiencing leg or hip pain during physical activity may be a sign of peripheral artery disease.
Persistent coughing, shortness of breath, and other breathing problems are symptoms of heart failure.
Swelling in the ankles or feet indicates your heart isn't pumping blood correctly.
If you notice one or more of these symptoms, speak with your primary care provider. You may be able to stop heart disease in its tracks with lifestyle changes, such as eating healthier and getting more exercise. Some diagnoses may require medication or, in more serious cases, surgery.
Don't Wait, Call 911
During a heart attack, your heart muscle is deprived of oxygen and begins to die. Once a heart attack starts, every minute that passes raises your risk of irreversible heart damage and death.
Quick treatment during a heart attack can be lifesaving, which is why you should almost always call 911 if you think you or someone else is experiencing a heart attack. People with chest pain who get to the hospital via ambulance normally receive treatment faster than those who don't. Emergency medical services teams can also start treatment when they arrive to pick up a suspected heart attack victim.
In the case of a possible heart attack, don't wait -- call 911.
Your heart is the most important muscle in your body. When it grows weak from heart disease, the heart struggles to pump oxygen-rich blood to your organs and tissues. That can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Talk about your heart health with a primary care provider. Schedule an appointment online at www.HeartlandAnytime.com.