During this American Heart Month it's been good even for me to take a moment and consider my own health as I write these blogs and post to Facebook. I love finding a new recipe or a new angle on fitness to promote heart health. But there does come a time to be reminded of the reason for lifestyle changes and that is to avoid heart failure, the number one cause of death in the United States.
"Heart failure or HF (often called congestive heart failure, CHF, or congestive cardiac failure, CCF) occurs when the heart is unable to provide sufficient pump action to maintain blood flow to meet the needs of the body. Heart failure can cause a number of symptoms including shortness of breath, leg swelling, and exercise intolerance. The condition is diagnosed with a physical examination by your physician and confirmed with an echocardiogram."
Coronary artery disease, a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart weakening the heart over time or suddenly
High blood pressure leading to problems with stiffness or eventually leading to the heart weakening
- Heart valves that are leaky or narrowed
- Infection that weakens the heart muscle
Some types of abnormal heart rhythms
Congenital Heart Disease, the most common kind of heart birth defect
- Exercise. Heart healthy exercises include things like handcycling, rowing, walking, hiking, swimming, spinning, aerobics, Zumba, basketball, jump rope, stair or elliptical training, cross country skiing, Nordic walking, inline skating, cycling, etc. See your doctor and begin a program of exercising within your target heart rate.
Eat heart healthy foods. Vegetables and fruits are powerful allies in keeping your heart healthy.
- Lower your salt intake. It can make a significant difference and I think it's the easiest change to make. Sodium helps the body to hold excess fluid creating an added burden on the heart. The recommended daily allowance is 1500 mg daily. Purchasing fruits and vegetables at your local farmers market and cooking things yourself helps you control sodium intake.
Lower your sugar intake. There's a high degree of connection between too much sugar consumption and cardiovascular diseases. Careful choices about the processed foods you eat, sodas and desserts can make a big difference.
- Stop smoking. Smoking increases blood pressure, decreases HDL (good cholesterol), decreases exercise tolerance and increases the tendency for blood to clot. Smoking also increases the risk of recurrent coronary heart disease after bypass surgery.
Cut down on alcohol. Heavy alcohol consumption has detrimental effects on blood pressure.
Lose weight. If you're overweight then weight loss can make it easier on your heart. Your heart pumps blood through your veins and arteries. Your lungs take in oxygen and send it to your blood. The stronger your heart is, the more easily it pumps more blood throughout your body. If your heart is weak it has to work harder to provide you with fresh blood and oxygen.
- Lower your cholesterol. Like small tumors, plaques of cholesterol and other substances form in the artery walls and eventually the passageway for blood becomes clogged. Less blood flow means less oxygen for the heart muscle. Chest pain (angina) occurs, usually following exercise or excitement. When the blood supply is completely cut off, a part of the heart muscle dies—this is a heart attack.
- Get plenty of rest. Our lives have become so busy and full that we forget to take time out to sit quietly and rest. And we often don't get enough sleep. Our hearts need time for rejuvenation. If we want it to last it needs to rest.