What are some simple ways to stay heart healthy?
Perspectives | Healthcare
Ala Mohsen MD, FACC
East Jefferson General Hospital
Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in adults in the United States. However, the majority of the burden may be attributable to modifiable risk factors. These risk factors can be reduced by effective implementation of a healthy lifestyle and adjunctive drug therapies. Smoking cessation and avoidance, regular exercise, weight loss and a healthy diet were proven to be effective strategies in reducing the risk for cardiovascular disease. Management of underlying diseases including high blood cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes also greatly reduce the risk of heart disease.
Jonathan E. Brouk
SVP and chief operating officer
Children’s Hospital New Orleans
We hear a lot about food and exercise habits, but I’ve found that what I eat has the biggest impact on my health and how I feel. As a father of two small children, preparing healthy meals in advance and planning small healthy snacks throughout the day is our family’s secret weapon against choosing easy, unhealthy options when time is tight, kids are hungry, and stress is high! A close second is staying hydrated—our CHNOLA heart experts recommend much more daily water consumption than most people might think.
As a pediatrician, my focus has always been on helping children develop healthy life-long habits. I encourage families to keep it simple: Eat a well-balanced and healthy diet, stay active and never, ever start smoking. Heredity is an important factor, but we can’t choose our parents. We can choose not to smoke, to eat more healthy foods and to find ways to be physically active at every age. Parents who model those choices increase the odds that their children will do likewise, significantly improving health outcomes.
Stephen Hales, MD, founder of Hales Pediatrics
Katie Richard, MA, BSN, RN
Director of Sports and Wellness
Thibodaux Regional Health System
Most heart disease can be prevented or managed with lifestyle changes:
- Eat a healthy diet. Lean meats, fruits and vegetables, controlled portions, limited sugar intake, limited saturated fats
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Stay physically active. Having a regular fitness routine gives you more energy and helps to improve your mental and physical health. Walking just 30 minutes a day can lower risk. The most important thing is to find something that you enjoy doing and keep moving.
- Do not smoke. Quitting smoking is hard and it sometimes requires several attempts. The younger you are when you quit, the better. But it’s never too late to stop as your body starts to respond almost immediately upon quitting.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Get enough sleep. An average of seven to eight hours of sleep each night for adults.
Achal Sahai, MD
More people have heart attacks in the latter part of the year due to excessive behavior and lack of exercise—hallmarks of the holiday season. Here are a few simple tips for staying heart healthy:
- Eat and drink moderately. Don’t overindulge!
- Continue to exercise during the holidays. Cardiovascular activity can be as simple as taking a 10-minute walk. This reduces the risk of heart disease and depression.
- Decrease your salt intake. Salt can increase blood pressure because it holds extra fluid in the body, which can put unnecessary stress on the heart. Watch out for sodium amounts in foods.
- Quit smoking. Smoking increases blood pressure and is bad for the heart.
- Get vaccinated. Make sure you’re up to date with your influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations. There will be a lot of mingling during the holiday season, and infections can be triggers for heart events.
- Don’t ignore symptoms. If you are experiencing symptoms that may be related to heart disease, reach out to your doctor as early as possible. If your symptoms are severe, call 911.