From Baptist Health South Florida
4 min. read
Every year, heart attacks and strokes claim the lives of 610,000 people in the U.S., which represents 1 in every 4 deaths, according to the CDC. Annually, about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack.
Family history – your genetic makeup – is just of one several risk factors for cardiovascular disease. And while you can’t pick your family, lifestyle choices can lower your risk for heart disease, according to medical experts at Baptist Health South Florida. Here are five tips for lowering your risk of developing a heart attack or stroke:
If you’re a smoker, breaking the habit should be your top priority, he says. That’s because smoking contributes to heart disease in several ways. Smoking constricts blood vessels, which can lead to high blood pressure and blood clots — two conditions linked to increased risk of a heart attack or stroke.
“It’s difficult to quit smoking, but worth it,” says Dr. Alrdrich says. “You have to find your motivation.”
He offers these considerations:
• Love of family: Your good health and long life are important to those who love you.
• Fear of disease: Increased risk of lung disease, cancer and heart disease might spark an urge to quit smoking.
• Greed: “Smoking costs a lot of money,” Dr. Aldrich says, adding that some smokers can spend $200-300 a month on cigarettes. “Quit smoking, and buy something for yourself to celebrate with all the dollars you are saving.”
2. Know Your Numbers
High blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol can increase your risk of developing heart disease and strokes. That’s why it’s important to check your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Knowing those numbers and getting your scores into healthy ranges can help reduce your risk of heart disease, says Angel Javier Rodriguez, M.D., a Baptist Health Medical Group physician with Baptist Health Primary Care.
Here’s a rundown of key numbers and related health conditions:
• Healthy blood pressure: For adults, a normal blood pressure is a reading below 120 mmHg/ 80 mmHg.
• Pre-hypertension: The target range for pre-hypertension is an upper number in the range of 129-139, and a lower number in the range of 80 to 89.
• High blood pressure: is a reading of 140/90 or higher.
“People with high total cholesterol have approximately twice the risk for heart disease as people with ideal levels,”according to a statement from the CDC.
What are healthy cholesterol numbers?
• Total cholesterol: Aim for less than 200 total cholesterol.
• Triglycerides: less than 130, recommends Dr. Rodriguez. He adds that those numbers should be lower still if you have diabetes or kidney disease.
• Healthy glucose numbers: After an overnight fast should be less than 100.
• Caution: If your fasting glucose is greater than 100, get an A1Ctest.
• Normal: A healthy A1C number is less than 5.7, according to Dr. Rodriguez.
• Prediabetes risk: An A1C reading between 5.7 and 6.4.
• Diabetes: An A1C number greater than 6.5 indicates diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension can be regulated or cured with exercise, diet and medication. Consult your physician for an individualized plan, Dr. Aldrich says. Additionally, a calcium score screening test may help your physician determine if you have plaque in your arteries, a condition that associated for an increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease.
Being obese or overweight increases your risk for cardiovascular disease. The body mass index (BMI) is a screening tool that uses your height and weight to measure body fat.
To calculate your BMI, the CDC offers a calculator. Or you can look up your height and weight in the CDC’s BMI Index Chart. Here are general guidelines:
If your BMI is less than 18.5, it falls within the “underweight” range.
If your BMI is 18.5 to 24.9, it falls within the “normal” (healthy) range.
If your BMI is 25.0 to 29.9, it falls within the “overweight” range.
If your BMI is 30.0 or higher, it falls within the “obese” range.
Dr. Rodriguez recommends 30-60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week, and your exercise sessions can be divided into 15 minute segments in the morning and evening. Exercise should include aerobic and weight-bearing exercise, with strength training.
Keep in mind that exercise alone can not tackle obesity or excess pounds, Dr. Aldrich says.
“Most people with busy lives and hectic jobs can’t exercise enough to lose weight by exercise alone,” he says. A combination of portion control, calorie restrictions and exercise can produce healthy results.
A healthy diet has been linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, which includes coronary events and strokes, Dr. Rodriguez says. Good nutrition consists of a diet packed with fruits, vegetables, fiber, which includes cereal without sugar.
Healthy Diet Ingredients:
• Foods with low sugar content.
• Select monofats and avoid transfats and animals fats
• Get Omega-3 fatty acids from fish and plants.
And remember: a healthy diet and lifestyle includes limits on alcohol consumption, Dr. Rodriguez says. Heavy alcohol consumption is linked to an increase in blood pressure, constriction of blood vessels and liver disease, he says, adding that those conditions place you at increased risk of heart disease.
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