Heart Health for Heart Month
By Jacqui D. Sinarle
Have you given any thought to your heart’s health lately?
You really should, because although you can’t change your family’s history of heart disease, there are lots of things that you can do to reduce your risk of developing it.
“Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States, so it’s important to make a concentrated effort to keep your heart healthy,” said Satnam Ludder, M.D.
As an interventional cardiologist with Valley Heart Associates, Dr. Ludder knows the value of heart healthy habits.
“Some people think they’re not going to get heart disease,” he reflected, “but the biggest mistakes people can make are to disregard heart health advice and to avoid adopting heart healthy lifestyle changes. remember: everything you do counts.”
“The best things you can do to keep your heart healthy are to quit smoking and to eat heart healthy foods,” Dr. Ludder said.
Smoking is harmful to your health in many ways: besides heart disease, smoking increases your risk of stroke, cancer, and lung disease, among many serious and life-threatening conditions (for resources to kick the habit, start by visiting the American Cancer Society at www.cancer.org).
Food also plays an important role in heart health.
“Enjoy your food but eat less,” Dr. Ludder advised. “Eat vegetables and fruits daily— half of your plate should be filled with vegetables. It’s also a good idea to replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats like olive and canola oils; eat a couple of servings of fish every week; drink water instead of sugary drinks; eat whole grains; avoid too much salt; and eat nuts for a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.”
“When manufacturers remove fat from products they often add sugar and carbohydrates, so always look at the labels when you buy processed foods and compare fat, sugar and calories,” Dr. Ludder continued. “Even when you’re eating in a restaurant, always compare the calories in different dishes.”
Dr. Ludder noted that it’s also extremely important to keep your heart healthy by exercising regularly; controlling your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol; and scheduling regular visits with your doctor.
“You should start evaluating your risk for heart disease in your 20s by having your doctor check your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and fasting blood sugar,” Dr. Ludder said. “If you don’t have any risk factors for heart disease, recheck every five years until you reach age 50. After that, have your doctor check your risk every one or two years.”
It’s also essential that you visit your physician if you feel bad—don’t just chalk it up to aging.
“If you sense something is wrong, don’t deny it to yourself,” Dr. Ludder advised. “See your doctor if you experience shortness of breath; unusual fatigue with exertion; or chest discomfort of any kind, including sensations of heaviness, tightness or pain, especially if they happen with exertion.”
For more information about keeping your heart healthy, Dr. Ludder recommended visiting the American Heart Association’s website at www.heart.org and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s healthy eating site at www.choosemyplate.gov.