The Value of Prevention
The American Heart Association estimates that 80% of heart attacks and strokes are preventable. However, heart disease remains the number one killer of men and women in the United States and worldwide. That is why American Heart Month and its goal of raising awareness for heart disease prevention is so important.
As stated by cardiologist Dr. Jason Wasfy, the director of quality and analytics at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, heart disease is largely preventable and there are a variety of things you can do on your own to help reduce your risk. He states that one of the best ways to reduce your risk is to follow “The Simple 7” developed by the American Heart Association. Following these steps and being mindful of your heart health can not only save you a heart related hospital trip, but it can also greatly improve your quality of life.
Life’s Simple 7
- Exercise Regularly: It is recommended to perform at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of intense exercise per week. To learn more about how exercise benefits your heart, check out our previous blog post!
- Follow a Heart Health Diet: Focus on including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, and nuts and limit your intake of processed foods and sugar. Click here for a full guide on creating a heart healthy diet!
- Never Smoke/Stop Smoking: Cigarette smokers are 2 to 4 times more likely to get heart disease than nonsmokers and one out of every 5 smoking-related deaths is caused by heart disease. If you do smoke, quitting can start to reduce your risk after just one year.
- Manage Blood Pressure: High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. When your blood pressure stays within healthy ranges, you reduce the strain on your heart, arteries, and kidneys which keeps you healthier longer. Following steps 1-3 will help manage your blood pressure, but you can find additional tips here!
- Control Cholesterol: High cholesterol contributes to plaque, which can clog arteries and lead to heart disease and stroke. When you control your cholesterol, you are giving your arteries their best chance to remain clear of blockages. Click here to learn more about controlling cholesterol and the difference between “good” and “bad” cholesterol.
- Reduce Blood Sugar: Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or blood sugar, that our bodies use for energy. Over time, high levels of blood sugar can damage your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves. The first step to managing your blood sugar is to understand what makes blood sugar levels rise and how to keep it within healthy ranges.
- Manage Your Weight: Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for optimal heart health. Body Mass Index (BMI) is a numerical value of your weight in relation to your height and learning this can help you know whether you’re at a healthy weight or need to lose weight.
A Final Note about Heart Disease
Payal Kohli, MD, FACC states that Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” is the perfect way to describe heart disease. As a preventive cardiologist, Kohli believes in an “proactive” approach to medicine rather than the “reactive” approach. She explains that she sees firsthand how 10 minutes of counseling about weight loss, healthier dietary and nutritional choices, incorporating more exercise, smoking cessation, or alcohol in moderation results in preventing the morbidity and mortality from heart failure, stroke or myocardial infarction for decades to come.
Following Life’s Simple 7 and speaking with your doctor about your risks and creating a prevention plan is the best way you can participate in American Heart Month. To learn more, click here!