7 Tips to Help Prevent Heart Disease

It's February - American Heart Month - a time when the nation spotlights heart disease, the number one killer of Americans. During American Heart Month, Summit Medical Group seeks to reinforce the importance of heart health, the need for more research, and efforts to ensure that our patients live longer and healthier.

Heart disease refers to several heart conditions. In the U.S., the most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease. This affects blood flow to the heart. Not enough blood flow can cause a heart attack. The good news is, there are things you can do to help avoid heart disease. These things include lifestyle choices and paying attention to your body's numbers. Here are seven tips to help reduce your risk of heart disease.

1. Get Screened.

Summit Medical Group providers partner with patients to identify risk factors, identify healthy lifestyle changes, and monitor heart health stats. Summit also provides a Cardiac Calcium Screening, which determines the amount of atherosclerosis, or plaque build-up, in the coronary arteries, which is directly related to your risk for a future heart attack. This quick, painless test is available without a referral and is available to anyone. For additional information, visit our Cardiac Calcium Screening webpage for more information and to schedule an appointment.

2. Be mindful of what you eat and drink.

It's important for your heart and body that you eat a well-rounded diet. This includes whole grains, lean protein, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and nuts and legumes.

Foods that can help prevent high cholesterol include those high in fiber and low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol. Staying away from salt and sugar as much as possible can help lower blood pressure, blood sugar, and help prevent or control diabetes.

Alcohol can raise your blood pressure, so choose water with a splash of lemon or cucumber instead. Men should limit their alcohol to two drinks per day, while women should have no more than one drink per day, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

3. Keep a healthy weight.

People who are overweight or obese have a higher chance of heart disease. The extra weight puts stress on blood vessels and the heart. You can discover your body mass index (BMI) using this BMI calculator.

4. Stay physically active.

Exercise has been shown to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, control body weight, and improve energy and stress levels. Try just 30 minutes a day, five days a week, of moderate activity. Find something you love - run, walk your dog, garden, dance or hike.

5. Monitor your cholesterol.

You should get a blood test to gauge your cholesterol levels every four to six years. If you know you have high cholesterol or a family history of high cholesterol, you may need to have those levels checked more often. Talk to your physician about when you should get this simple blood test.

6. Check your blood pressure.

You should have your blood pressure checked at least once every two years. If you have high blood pressure or other risk factors for heart disease, your health care provider will likely want you to check blood pressure more often. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, usually has no symptoms. That's why it's important to get it checked on a regular basis. If you have high blood pressure, your physician may recommend lifestyle changes, such as lowering sodium intake or a medication to help lower your blood pressure.

7. Take your medication.

People who take medicine for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes should make sure to follow their health care provider's instructions. Following those instructions can help you keep medical conditions under control, which can help prevent heart disease. If something is unclear, make sure to ask questions. Don't stop taking medications without talking to your health care team first.