Whether your blood pressure is running on the high side, you have high cholesterol passed down from a family member, or you have no known reason to be worried about your cardiovascular health, heart disease is a threat you should be aware of. Nearly half of all Americans have a risk factor for heart disease – and many don't even realize it.
Fortunately, you can take steps to turn your heart health around. Your daily choices significantly impact your heart, and the more positive choices you make, the better, stronger, and healthier your heart will be.
This month is American Heart Month, so Dr. Michael Skardasis and our team at Optimal Performance Medicine in Woodstock, Georgia, walk through six simple strategies to help you support your heart, sidestep your risk factors, and live a full, healthy life.
1. Evaluate your plate
The best place to start if you’re looking to make heart-healthy changes is your diet. If your meals consist of processed and fast foods, you may be damaging your heart without even realizing it.
Foods like hot dogs, bacon, deli meats, frozen meals, and french fries are high in sodium and unhealthy fats. Both wreak havoc on your cardiovascular system and increase your risk for heart disease.
This problem is easy to fix, though. Simply eat foods as close to their original state as possible: Choose whole fruits, grains, and vegetables rather than processed forms of them. You’re much more likely to avoid harmful ingredients and get the total nutritional value that way.
Many of our heart-conscious patients have success following the Mediterranean diet, which limits sugar and sodium and focuses on healthy fats and whole foods.
2. Don’t be a couch potato
A sedentary lifestyle is like a snowball that rolls down the hill and becomes an avalanche of health problems, especially where your heart is concerned.
Without regular exercise, it’s nearly impossible to effectively manage or prevent obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, all of which inevitably lead to heart disease.
The good news is that you don’t have to become a triathlete — even small changes make a huge difference.
The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (think a brisk walk around your neighborhood) or 75 minutes of high-intensity aerobic activity (jogging on the treadmill).
We can help you create an exercise program that fits your lifestyle, goals, abilities, and interests.
3. Kick the habit
Smoking contaminates your blood with chemicals that gradually weaken your blood vessels and damage your heart. In fact, smoking is responsible for one in five deaths from heart disease.
Those who stop smoking see almost immediate heart health benefits. Dr. Skardasis can talk with you about creating a plan to help you stop smoking. A great place to start is finding something else to do instead of smoking.
4. Don’t be a lush
A celebratory glass of wine or a cold beer now and then isn’t necessarily a problem. However, drinking too much alcohol raises your blood pressure, disrupts a regular heartbeat, and contributes to cardiomyopathy.
We recommend that women limit themselves to one drink per day and men should have two drinks daily, but even that can raise cholesterol. The best thing to do is avoid alcohol, substituting it for something else, such as seltzer water or a mocktail.
5. Get restful sleep every night
We’re not talking a few hours of sleep — we’re talking a solid 7-8 hours of genuine rest every night. Without it, your body responds to sleep deprivation by sending chemicals that make it difficult to regulate your heart rate and blood pressure.
Talk to our team about what’s keeping you from restful sleep, and we can help you devise a game plan to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
6. Manage your stress
When you’re constantly stressed, your blood pressure rises and causes your heart to beat faster. Over time, your heart gradually succumbs to strain.
It’s not possible to find your zen in a day or two. It takes time to determine the best way to manage your stress, and professional support from Optimal Performance Medicine can help.
A healthier heart, this month and all year
You’re not expected to make all of these changes to your lifestyle habits at once. Focus on one and watch how even the slightest adjustment makes a difference.
We have years of experience helping people make positive changes, so team up with us and take charge of your heart health. Call Optimal Performance Medicine to schedule an appointment or use our convenient online booking.