The statistics about heart disease are staggering – it causes more deaths each year than all forms of cancer combined, even though it’s preventable for some people. Doctors use American Heart Month to remind us to be good to our hearts, so we’ve asked cardiologist Dr. Jeffrey Alexis for some tips.
Alexis: We can all work to keep our hearts healthy by avoiding tobacco, eating right and getting more exercise. Smoking damages so many parts of our body; if you’re addicted to tobacco, do whatever it takes to quit. Miraculously, your body can reverse the damage caused by smoking. Check out New York State Smokers Quitline for tips and access to resources.
Obesity also contributes to a variety of diseases that can hinder heart functioning. Stay trim, eat a nutritious, plant-based diet – with low-salt and low-calorie foods. Don’t drink too much alcohol. Make sure you get enough exercise – 30 to 60 minutes per day. This protects against heart disease by:
- helping the heart work more efficiently;
- reducing blood pressure;
- decreasing the tendency of blood to form life-threatening clots;
- moderating stress;
- helping your body use insulin; and,
- helping you maintain a healthy weight.
Alexis: Pay attention to your blood pressure and cholesterol levels; it’s really important that you know these numbers.
Regular blood pressure screenings start in childhood. Adults should have their blood pressure checked at least every two years. You may need more-frequent checks if your numbers aren’t ideal, or if you have other risk factors for heart disease. Optimal blood pressure is less than 120/80 millimeters of mercury. There are many inexpensive medications that doctors prescribe to help manage blood pressure or hypertension, and stave off heart disease, if your numbers are high.
Adults should have their cholesterol measured every five years. You may need more frequent testing if your levels are off, or if you have other risk factors for heart disease. Doctors sometimes even check children’s cholesterol levels if there’s a strong family history of heart disease. An ounce of prevention goes a long way.
For more information about heart care, visit URMC’s Heart and Vascular Center or call 275-2877.