February is American Heart Month! Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States, so we will take some time out from caucuses, primaries and the Zika virus (but feel free to call if you want to talk about the Zika virus), to focus on heart health! A staggering one half of middle-aged men and one third of middle-aged women in our country will develop coronary heart disease. Nearly 18 million Americans already have it.
Some of the risks can't be helped, like age and your family history, but many of the risks for heart disease are preventable. Some of these include smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Here are some things that can help. And you don't have to do them alone. We can help!
- Quit smoking. There are nicotine replacement products and medications that can help you do this. It also helps to have a friend or family member help hold you accountable. Set a firm quit date, put it on the calendar, celebrate it. Find healthy habits to replace your smoking time.
- Exercise. Strive for 30-60 minutes a day or 150 minutes a week of vigorous activity. This will look different for different people. Brisk walking, bike riding, swimming, jogging, running or taking up a new sport are all great, but even just being active outdoors with mowing or gardening can help. Find creative ways to increase your movement. Park at the back of a parking lot on a nice day.
- Healthy eating. Eat more whole, fresh foods and less processed foods. Eat small, healthy meals at least three times a day. Avoid foods that are high in sodium to keep your blood pressure normal. This is an extensive topic, but keep it simple.
- Lose weight. If you are overweight, losing even just 5-10% of your current body weight can make a big difference. We like to help with this too.
We are always thinking about our patients' health risks when we see them, including looking at each individual's risk for heart disease. In February, in honor of American Heart Month, we are offering cardiac risk assessment to all new members, including a free EKG and lipid panel. We hope you Go Red too and take action to reduce heart disease risk for you and your family!