Heart Disease Awareness

February is Heart Disease Awareness Month. Did you know heart disease is the number one cause of death in both men and women? An alarming 1 million lives are taken annually in the United States. The incredible thing you might not know, is heart disease is one of the MOST preventable health problems of all! Let’s get down to the heart of the issue.

Heart disease is a very wide term for many variations of heart disorders. If your heart isn’t beating to a drum correctly, this can be referred to as arrhythmia. There are many associated names and acronyms for this, such as PVCs, AFib, PSVT, just to identify a few. It’s a whole lot like learning a new alphabet! But, for this moment, let’s drive into more detail about heart disease itself and focus on coronary artery disease or cardiovascular disease. If your doctor says you have a plaque buildup, this is referring to the fat, cholesterol, calcium and other things beginning to store on the walls of the coronary arteries. When these start to stick, they begin to close the roadway for your oxygen-rich blood to feed the heart muscle. It’s like merging from a two-lane highway into one-lane and eventually that lane disappears! Depending on the artery (or roadway) that’s closing down, the deadend is either a stroke (carotid arteries on either side of the neck) or a myocardial infarction, otherwise known as a heart attack (the arteries around the heart). Risk factors range from age, family history, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and the basic lack of exercise.

Here’s the easy part. This disease is preventable in the most simple ways! First of all, know your risk factors. Talk to your doctor and find out where you stand with your family history, your personal health history and your current numbers. A lab test can be easily ordered and completed, and many of our FPCA offices have a lab tech (phlebotomist) on site. Secondly, find 30 minutes in your day, at least five days per week to engage in some form of regular, moderate aerobic exercise. This is as simple as taking a walk during your work lunch break! When you’re feeling good about this, add some weight bearing or higher impact aerobic work for just an additional 20 minutes, 2-3 times per week. Let’s face it, even if you don’t like to exercise, these simple activities will help prevent more than just heart disease. You WILL feel better, look better, your mind will feel more at ease, more relaxed…so, get those endorphins pushed into overdrive!

Lastly, shift into the next gear and finish out the beltway loop by eating right. Take the wheel with a diet low in salt, saturated and trans fats, and high in unsaturated fats like fish, avocado, even some wine in moderation (if your doctor approves), such as the Mediterranean Diet. Fish oil supplements are proven to lower heart disease risk and if you’re a smoker, talk to your doctor about options to help you quit. Your Frederick Primary Care provider is going to help you to get healthy and stay healthy. We even offer a dietician to help guide you through the pains of learning to eat right!

Heart disease doesn’t have to exist. This month, February of 2018, make a decision to change your lifestyle, change your risk factors and drive in the fast lane to a destination of health and happiness. For more information, check out The Heart Foundation at www.theheartfoundation.org

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