How Healthy is Your Heart?

A healthier heart is within reach. Answer the questions below to investigate the health of your heart. These questions are designed for adults. The information here is not meant to take the place of a visit to your doctor; in fact, take the answers to discuss with your physician. You can improve your heart health by leading a healthy lifestyle.

Personal Health History
I have been diagnosed with a heart or blood vessel disease. Y/N

Family Health History
I have a grandfather, father, or brother who had a heart attack before age 55, or a grandmother, mother, or sister who had a heart attack before age 65. Y/N

Exercise
I exercise or do some form of moderate physical activity (such as walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, step-training, or dancing) for at least 30 minutes a day, 4 or more times a week. Y/N

Body Mass Index
Body mass index (BMI) is a formula to assess your body weight in relation to your height. This formula gives a measure of your body composition and has been shown to be an effective predictor of body fat. To calculate your BMI, enter your height and weight here http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/ and enter your BMI = _______.
Smoking and Tobacco
Do you smoke cigarettes? Every day/I used to smoke but I quit/I do not smoke, but I live or work with people who do/I do not smoke cigarettes, but I do smoke cigars or a pipe./I don’t smoke.

Blood Pressure
My blood pressure is: Above 160/100; Between 140/90 and 159/99; Between 120/80 and 139/89; Below 120/80.

Total Cholesterol
My cholesterol is: Above 240 mg/dL; 200 to 240 mg/dL; 200 mg/DL or below; I don’t know.

Diabetes
I have high blood sugar or diabetes. Y/N

Gender
My gender is: M/F post menopause/F pre-menopause

Age
My age is: 60 /45-60/30-44/Under 30

A Healthy Lifestyle Can Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease

Risk factors are lifestyle habits and personal characteristics that contribute to the likelihood of developing heart disease and speed up the development of artery-blocking plaque. Some risk factors, such as smoking, obesity, and lack of physical activity can be changed. Others, like high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol can be controlled with medication and diet. Only age, gender, race, and family history are out of your control. Now is the time to customize your own plan for heart-healthy living. You and your physician can begin to work on your heart improvement plan today. Make today your January 1st.

Top 10 Ways to Improve and Maintain Heart Health

1. Exercise.
Regular, moderate exercise is vital to heart health. The heart is a muscle, and it needs regular exercise to remain strong and perform at its peak level. Moderate exercise performed on a daily basis provides greater long-term benefits than an occasional intense workout. Opportunities to increase activity and exercise can be a part of everyday life if you park at the far end of the parking lot or take the stairs instead of the elevator. The American Heart Association suggests vigorous activity at 50% to 75% of maximum heart rate for at least 30 minutes on three or four days of each week. Alternately, moderate intensity physical activity for 30 minutes on most days also provides some benefits.

2. Eat Right.
A well balanced diet is the key to a heart healthy life. This includes a diet filled with plenty of fruits, vegetables (five servings each day), and whole grains. Meat and fat should be eaten in moderation. The USDA Food Pyramid provides a very good illustration of what comprises a heart healthy diet.

3. Don’t Smoke!
The nicotine inhaled from smoking cigarettes is the leading preventable cause of heart disease. If you smoke, the best option is to quit now! Nicotine addiction is powerful, but assistance is available. St. Patrick Hospital offers an effective program called Quit for Life. Additionally, over-the-counter medications are available to help you stop smoking, and your physician may also recommend a prescription that can aid in the transition. When you stop smoking, you increase your heart health and lower your risk for diseases such as emphysema, stroke, and cancer.

4. Monitor Your Blood Pressure.
Have your blood pressure checked regularly. High blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease, strains the entire cardiovascular system, and increases the chance of stroke and kidney disease. If your blood pressure is above the recommended levels, adopting these guidelines for a heart healthy lifestyle can lower blood pressure without medication and prevent high blood pressure from returning. When needed, different medications are available for high blood pressure, and patients should work with their physician to find one that provides the maximum benefit with the least side effects.

5. Know Your Cholesterol.
Keeping your cholesterol in the normal range is important to good heart health. Cholesterol is a fat that circulates in the blood stream. A high cholesterol level, especially the LDL or bad cholesterol, interferes with blood flow and increases the risk for heart attack and stroke. A healthy diet and moderate exercise are often enough to maintain a normal cholesterol reading. For others, a physician may recommend a medication from the wide variety of cholesterol-lowering drugs now available.

6. Maintain a Healthy Weight.
Use the AHA Weight Guidelines to determine your ideal weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is important for the health of your heart, lungs, kidneys, and other vital organs. If you need to lose weight, work with your health care professional to create a sensible plan for modifying the lifestyle factors (primarily diet and exercise) that will contribute to successful weight loss. Fad diets do not work, and many will actually damage your health.

7. Reduce Stress.
Do you realize how stress impacts your life and your health? Increased heart rate, depression, anxiety, headaches, and problems with thinking clearly are caused by too much stress. The body responds to stress by releasing hormones, and unfortunately, these stress-induced hormones put an additional load on the heart. This type of stress response can be an independent factor for heart attack. Stress is hard to avoid in our fast-paced world, but simple adjustments can be made in everyday life to help reduce it.

8. Limit Alcohol Consumption.
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Some studies suggest that moderate alcohol consumption (1 to 2 drinks per day) can reduce some cardiovascular risks. However, excessive alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk for stroke, heart attack, and cardiovascular disease. Anyone who meets the definition of an alcoholic should completely abstain from using alcohol.

9. An Aspirin a Day?
Low-dose aspirin has been shown to significantly reduce the risk for heart attack and to prevent recurrence of a second heart attack. However, low-dose aspirin is a medication, and the benefits and possible side effects of daily aspirin therapy must be discussed with your doctor. Recent studies also recommend taking an aspirin immediately after calling 9-1-1 if you are experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack.

10. Be Heart Smart.
Educate yourself and your family about heart heath. Keep abreast of the latest news about the heart disease prevention. The more you know, the healthier you will be. From your morning newspaper to the internet, many sources are available to keep you informed about the latest news on heart health.
Although these tools are based on scientific data, they are not meant to take the place of recommendations from your physician or healthcare provider. See your physician regularly and discuss your health concerns with him or her.

To reduce the risk of developing heart disease, identify your risk factor(s) and make lifestyle modifications where you can. Behavior change takes time and involves several steps, including:

• If you have several behaviors that you wish to change, tackle one at a time. It is hard enough to change one behavior, let alone three. Choose one behavior that you are truly ready to change and tackle that one first.

• Use goal setting to set two or three goals that are specific, attainable, and forgiving. A goal could be to walk or run 3 miles.

• Divide the goal into two to three small steps. Begin by walking 30 minutes three days a week and try to increase the speed and distance over time.

• Don’t give up. Setbacks will happen. Most people attempt each stage several times before a lifestyle change becomes a habit.

• After you have maintained a new behavior, rely on your newly heightened self-confidence to tackle another!


Resources

American Heart Association http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3000090
Texas Heart Institute http://hht.texasheartinstitute.org/
Hoag Heart Institute www.hoaghospital.org/heartinstitute/Healthy.aspx
Hoag Heart Institute www.hoaghospital.org/heartinstitute/Healthy-Prevention.aspx
Minneapolis Heart Institute www.mplsheartfoundation.org/education/education_whatsrisk.asp
Minneapolis Heart Institute www.mplsheartfoundation.org/education/education_riskfactors.asp
Sutter Health http://cardiac.sutterhealth.org/health/riskassessmenttool.html