6 Lifestyle Changes for a Healthier Heart
There are many conditions that make up heart disease, including heart attack, congestive heart failure, arrhythmias and angina. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. The number of women affected by heart disease continues to grow. February is American Heart Month, a time to check your heart health and make sure your lifestyle and nutrition choices will reduce your risk of heart disease.
Risk Factors for Heart Disease
There are several risk factors that you cannot control such as increasing age, gender and heredity (race). However, there are six major risk factors for heart disease that can be changed with lifestyle choices.
- Stop Smoking—Smoking causes as many deaths from heart disease as from lung cancer. Women who smoke are two to six times more likely to have a heart attack than a nonsmoker, because smoking causes the heart vessels to become narrower. The more cigarettes you smoke, the higher your risk. Heart attacks also are more severe and deadly in smokers. Quitting smoking will greatly increase your health.
- Lower Cholesterol—An estimated 107 million U.S. adults have elevated blood cholesterol levels. Excessive cholesterol in the blood contributes to heart disease. A low-fat diet, exercise and losing weight can reduce your cholesterol. Your total cholesterol should be less than 200 with LDL less than 130, HDL greater than 40 in men (greater than 50 in women) and triglycerides less than 150.
- Lower Blood Pressure (hypertension)—Nearly one in three U.S. adults have high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. Your risk of heart disease increases if your blood pressure is 140/90 or higher. A normal blood pressure level is around 120/80. If you are close, lower levels usually can be reached through lifestyle changes such as losing excess weight, regular exercise, a healthy low-sodium diet and limited alcohol intake. If blood pressure is severe, medication can help.
- Lose Weight—As much as 64 percent of adults age 20 and older are considered overweight or obese. More than half of American women ages 50 to 59 are overweight. Being overweight increases the risk of coronary heart disease even with no other risk factors.
- Be Active—Lack of regular aerobic exercise—exercise that increases your heart rate—is a major risk factor. Brisk walking, swimming and weight lifting are three types of aerobic exercise. Try to work up to 30 minutes of daily activity.
- Control Diabetes—If you have Type II diabetes, weight reduction and exercise can reduce your risk of heart disease. People with diabetes often have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and are overweight, increasing their risk even more. Diabetes also doubles the risk of a second heart attack in women but not in men.
Knowing your risks will help you control them and reduce your chances of developing heart disease. If you think your heart needs attention, visit one of our doctors at the Heart Lung Vascular Institute.
Need Help Finding a Doctor for Heart Disease?
If you do not have a doctor and would like help finding one, UT Medical Center’s Healthcare Coordination can help. They will talk to you about what insurance you have, what type of doctor you need and what days are most convenient for you. Call them today at 865-305-6970 to make an appointment.
Health Information Center at The University of Tennessee Medical Center provided this Healthy Tip. The Health Information Center is a library staffed by medical librarians and certified health information specialists. If you let us know your health information needs, we will do research for you and mail or email the results to you for free. You can call us at 865-305-9525. We also have a large collection of health books covering a variety of topics.
Becoming a library member is free and only requires a picture ID.
The Health Information Center in located on the first floor the hospital. We have computers, printers, and a quiet place to take a break. We are open the following times:
Mon.-Thurs., 8:30 am-9 pm
Fri., 8:30 am-5 pm
Sat., 9 am-5 pm
Sun., 1 pm-9 pm