Updated: Feb 17, 2022
This story has been updated February 17, 2022.
Generally, people aren’t aware of the state of their health, until there’s an incident - particularly when it comes to heart health. This spring, make some healthy changes by being proactive about heart health. Though most asymptomatic people don’t have significant heart problems, it’s important to see a primary care physician to screen for risk factors.
“Most people under the age of 30 are unlikely to go see their doctor, but if you have a family history of early-onset heart disease or you're doing things that you know can provoke it - like smoking or being overweight - then you really need to go and see your primary care physician earlier than maybe a person who doesn't have those risk factors,” says Dr. Fox, Advanced Illness Management Clinical Physician.
Though there are some risk factors that can’t be changed, such as being older, male, a woman who is past menopause or having a family history of heart attacks or coronary artery disease, there are other risk factors that can be controlled. Some of the controllable risk factors include:
High blood pressure
Lack of exercise
“A lot of our behaviors have been going on for years. We can have good heart health habits, or we can have bad heart health habits. Going out to eat a piece of fried chicken once a month most likely isn’t going to make you have a heart attack tomorrow, but if you’re eating unhealthy foods every day, it can have an impact on weight, blood pressure, and increase the risk of high cholesterol,” says Dr. Fox.
Though we may experience these factors on a daily basis, an effective way to maintain heart health outside of the doctor’s office is by eliminating these risk factors with simple lifestyle changes. This spring, going for a walk in the warming weather is a great way to get some physical activity and can reduce stress, both of which play a big role in maintaining heart health.
Another important factor in taking care of heart health is making sure your diet is in good shape. Americans tend to eat a lot of rich, salty foods, which is not something you want to do if wanting to keep your heart healthy. Make sure to eat fruits and vegetables and other foods high in fiber and avoid foods high in sugar, fat or salt. Drinking alcohol also increases risk for heart problems; make sure to control your alcohol intake to no more than two 4 oz glasses a day (even less for women).
Caregivers should be mindful of these risk factors and good heart health habits, making sure they aren't smoking around their loved ones who are at risk for heart disease, are cooking healthy meals if that is one of their responsibilities and are managing their loved ones' heart medications.
To schedule a biometric screening to detect your risk for chronic diseases, heart-related or otherwise, contact the VNA at (314) 918-7171 x 1257.