Strategies for a Healthy Heart
Heart disease is an umbrella term that refers to a variety of problems related to the cardiovascular system. Some of these problems stem from atherosclerosis, which can develop when plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. This buildup can narrow the arteries, making it difficult for blood to flow through them. It can also lead to the formation of blood clots, which can block the blood flow completely and cause heart attacks and strokes. Other types of cardiovascular problems include heart failure, arrhythmia, and heart valve problems.
In the United States, heart disease is a leading cause of death. Some key risk factors, such as age, sex, and genetics, are unavoidable. Nevertheless, a generally healthy lifestyle can go a long way toward preventing heart problems, both now and in the future.
Specifically, you can help ward off heart disease and a host of other health problems with the following strategies:
- Don’t smoke – Smoking is the number one risk factor for developing heart disease. The chemicals found in tobacco can lead to atherosclerosis and damage the heart and blood vessels. What’s more, the carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke replaces some of the oxygen in the blood, which can force the heart to work harder and lead to high blood pressure. It’s never too late to quit smoking; in fact, studies show that the risk of heart disease drops significantly – almost to that of a non-smoker – within approximately five years of smoking cessation.
- Exercise daily – As little as 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day can provide a multitude of heart and other health benefits. Exercise helps to keep the body weight in check and reduces the chances of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, all of which can strain the heart. Even shorter workouts can be very beneficial, and everyday activities like walking up a flight of stairs, doing housework, and walking the dog can all count toward this goal.
- Follow a heart-healthy diet – Certain foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat sources of protein, and certain types of fish, such as salmon and mackerel, can protect the heart and reduce the risk of heart disease. It’s also important to avoid “unhealthy” saturated and trans fats, which are found in red meats, dairy products, fried foods, margarines, and packaged snack foods. On the other hand, “healthy” fats from plant-based sources, including olives, nuts, and avocadoes, can actually lower “bad” cholesterol and help the heart.
- Maintain a healthy weight – Excess weight can lead to conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, all of which can increase the risk of heart disease. In general, a body mass index (BMI) of 24 or lower combined with a waist size of 35 of lower for women or 40 or lower for men is indicative of a healthy amount of body fat. Even a slight weight loss can be very beneficial.
- Get enough rest – Sleep is vital to good health. Most adults need seven to nine hours each night to feel refreshed and stay healthy. In addition to causing daytime fatigue, sleep deprivation can lead to an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes, obesity, and depression.
Regular health screenings, such as blood pressure and cholesterol testing, are also important for protecting the heart because early detection can foster awareness and facilitate treatment. If you have questions or would like to have your blood pressure or cholesterol level checked, you can contact or visit South Tampa Immediate Care. Our walk-in clinic is conveniently located on South Howard Avenue in Tampa, FL, and we welcome patients from Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, and the surrounding Florida areas.