American Heart Month

Every February, we recognize American Heart Month, a campaign that aims to spread awareness about heart disease and heart health. Heart disease occurs when the arteries that lead to the heart become clogged, and it’s an issue that leads to more than 600,000 American deaths every year. In fact, heart disease is the most common cause of death in America, affecting people of all ages, genders, and ethnicities.

In today's fast-paced world, it is crucial to prioritize our health, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. Conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol can significantly increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack. By adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle and understanding the various risk factors associated with heart disease, we can take proactive steps to safeguard our cardiovascular health.

At Prima CARE, we prioritize your heart health. As a trusted provider of primary and specialty care in Southeastern New England, we are dedicated to offering state-of-the-art resources and comprehensive healthcare services. With a patient-centered approach, our team of experienced providers is committed to delivering personalized care tailored to your unique needs. 

Together, let's work towards a heart-healthy and a better quality of life. Read on for some healthy heart tips!

What Are The Signs Of Poor Heart Health?

Maintaining good heart health is vital for a long and healthy life. A healthy heart ensures proper blood flow, nourishing our organs and muscles with essential oxygen and nutrients. However, it's important to be aware of the signs that may indicate poor heart health. 

Some signs of poor heart health include:

  • Shortness of Breath: Difficulty breathing, especially during physical activity or while lying down, may indicate an underlying heart problem.
  • Chest Pain or Discomfort: This can manifest as a feeling of pressure, tightness, or pain in the chest, which may be a sign of angina or other heart-related issues.
  • Rapid or Irregular Heartbeat: A racing heart or irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) can be symptoms of poor heart health.
  • Fatigue and Weakness: Feeling excessively tired, weak, or lacking energy, even with minimal exertion, maybe a sign that your heart is not functioning optimally.
  • Swelling: Edema or swelling in the legs, ankles, feet, or abdomen can occur due to fluid retention caused by heart problems.
  • Dizziness or Fainting: Feeling lightheaded, dizzy, or experiencing fainting spells could indicate poor heart health and inadequate blood flow to the brain.
  • Poor Exercise Tolerance: Being unable to keep up with physical activity levels that were previously manageable may suggest an underlying heart condition.
  • High Blood Pressure: Hypertension, or consistently elevated blood pressure, is a risk factor for heart disease and can strain the heart over time.
  • Elevated Cholesterol Levels: High levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol can contribute to plaque buildup in the arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease.
  • Diabetes or Insulin Resistance: Conditions related to glucose metabolism, such as diabetes or insulin resistance, can increase the risk of heart disease.

If you experience any of these signs or have concerns about your heart health, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for a proper evaluation and guidance. 

The Impact of High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, puts excessive strain on the heart and blood vessels. This increased pressure can lead to a variety of health problems, including an elevated risk of heart disease. Regular blood pressure tests are essential for monitoring this silent killer and taking necessary steps to control and reduce high blood pressure.

Cholesterol, on the other hand, is a waxy substance that plays a vital role in the body. However, when levels of bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) are too high, it can accumulate in the arteries, leading to blockages and increasing the risk of heart disease. Monitoring and managing cholesterol and blood pressure levels are crucial for maintaining a healthy heart.

Taking care of your heart is an essential aspect of maintaining overall health, and it's easier than you might think. Here are four practical steps, backed by scientific research, that can significantly boost your heart health and help prevent heart disease.

Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet

There are many different strategies you can employ to eat a heart-healthy diet and lower your risk of heart disease. We know that changing your eating habits can be tough, but even small changes can improve your heart health. Next time you’re shopping at the grocery store or cooking with what’s already in your pantry, keep these tips in mind:

  • Watch portion sizes. Many Americans tend to eat larger portions than they really need. Pay attention to recommended serving sizes on the foods you eat; don’t be afraid to pull out a kitchen scale or measuring cups for help!
  • Eat your fruits and veggies. Fruits and vegetables are famous for their many health benefits. Fresh or frozen options, as well as low-sodium canned vegetables and fruit packaged in juice or water (rather than syrup), can provide your body with vitamins, minerals, and other substances that may help prevent heart disease.
  • Choose whole-grain options. High in fiber and other nutrients that help your body regulate blood pressure, whole-grain foods are a fantastic addition to a heart-healthy diet. Plus, it’s easy to work into your diet! Replace your usual fare with 100% whole-wheat or whole-grain bread, whole-grain pasta, high-fiber cereals, or other whole-grain options.
  • Limit unhealthy fats and choose low-fat options. It’s important to note here that not all fats are bad. While saturated and trans fats should be limited or avoided due to their negative impacts on your cholesterol, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, like olive oil and avocados, can actually help lower your total cholesterol.
  • Reduce your sodium intake. Too much salt can cause high blood pressure, which can result in heart disease. Reducing the amount of salt you add to your food, either while cooking or once served, is a good step, but most of the salt you take in throughout the day is from canned or processed foods. Make sure to look for reduced-sodium versions of food while shopping.

Get Active

Exercise is good for our general health in many ways, but as far as heart health goes, it’s a great way to prevent heart disease. For instance, regular cardiovascular exercise strengthens the heart, allowing it to pump more blood with less effort. This decreases the force of your blood on your arteries, lowering your blood pressure and, with it, lowering your risk of heart disease.

Exercise also helps move LDL cholesterol, also known as “bad” cholesterol, out of the blood and into the liver, ultimately expelling it from your body. This lowers your LDL cholesterol levels, once again lowering your heart disease risk. Plus, given the connection between obesity and heart disease, it’s also worth noting that exercise can lead to weight loss, easing the strain on the heart.

30 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous cardiovascular exercise is optimal for heart health, but this can be done in three 10-minute sessions if needed. The best part is how many different activities you can choose, including running, swimming, biking, dancing, jumping rope, stair climbing, hiking, rollerblading, kickboxing, and martial arts. Challenge yourself to pick one that interests you and make time for it!

Quit Smoking (Or Avoid Starting)

Smoking and vaping are associated with a wide variety of cardiovascular diseases. In particular, smoking causes many changes within the body, including high blood pressure and heart rate, reducing blood flow and oxygen, increasing the risk of blood clots and strokes, and damaging blood vessels.

Luckily, as soon as you quit smoking, your blood circulation, blood pressure, and heart rate all see improvements. A few days later, breathing should become easier, and your sense of taste and smell will improve, too. We know quitting isn’t easy, but it is worth it—it can cut your chances of getting heart disease in half!

Check Your Blood Pressure Regularly

Whether it be at the pharmacy or your annual physical, having your blood pressure checked regularly can help you avoid heart disease. People with high blood pressure, while at a higher risk of heart disease, often experience no symptoms, even with dangerously high blood pressure. However, by working with a doctor and monitoring your levels, potential issues can be spotted early and cared for before it’s too late.

Consult with Prima CARE for Expert Heart Care

When it comes to receiving expert primary and specialty care in Southeastern New England, we understand the importance of choosing a trusted provider. Prima CARE is all you need for all your healthcare needs. 

With our state-of-the-art resources and our team of dedicated healthcare professionals, we offer comprehensive diagnostic and therapeutic services to help you maintain heart health through lifestyle changes. Through our patient portal, you can easily access your medical information and find more information about the services we provide. Visit our website today to learn more.

At Prima CARE, we want you to keep your heart health in mind, not just during American Heart Month, but always. If you have concerns about your cardiovascular health or any other health concerns, schedule an appointment online with your primary care physician.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the risk factors for heart disease?

The risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, smoking, obesity, lack of physical activity, and an unhealthy diet. These factors contribute to the development of cardiovascular problems and increase the likelihood of heart disease.

How can I control high blood pressure?

High blood pressure can be controlled by incorporating healthy lifestyle changes. This includes following a low-sodium diet, engaging in regular physical activity, managing stress levels, limiting alcohol consumption, and taking prescribed medication if necessary.

What is the role of saturated fat in heart health?

Saturated fat is known to raise LDL cholesterol levels, which can increase the risk of heart disease. Limiting the intake of saturated fats found in red meat, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils is important. Instead, focus on consuming healthier fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in sources like olive oil, avocados, and nuts.

How does body mass index (BMI) impact heart health?

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. Maintaining a healthy BMI is crucial for heart health as excess body weight, especially around the waist, increases the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, all of which can contribute to heart disease.

What are healthy fats, and why are they important?

Healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, play a beneficial role in heart health. These fats can help lower total cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. They are found in foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, fish, and olive oil.