Are you at Risk for Heart Disease?

Posted on February 4, 2015 15:54 pm CST

February is American Heart Month. Since most Americans see the heart as the symbol of love, it's easy to think of heart health during the month of Valentine's, the holiday that Americans celebrate love. This month, you can show yourself some love by learning about cardiovascular disease (CVD), its risks, and what you can do to prevent it. CVD, including heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure, is the number one killer of men and women in the United States and costs an estimated $300 billion each year in health care, medication and lost productivity. Men are twice as likely to die from preventable CVD as women. Having a close relative who has heart disease puts you at higher risk for CVD. Many CVD deaths can be prevented by healthier habits and better management of conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. 

Here are some ways that you can help prevent CVD:

1. Watch your diet- Choose healthy meals and snacks by limiting sodium (salt); eating plenty of fruits and vegetables (at least 5 servings per day); eating foods that are low in saturated and trans fat, cholesterol and high in fiber.

2. Get plenty of physical activity- Exercise can help maintain a healthy weight and can lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Adults should participate in moderate activity for at least 150 minutes per week. Even doing things like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or raking the yard instead of using a leaf blower is considered physical activity. Make exercise fun! Find a form that you enjoy and stick with it.

3. Limit tobacco and alcohol use- Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for CVD. If you're a smoker, quit as soon as possible. If you aren't a smoker, don't start. Avoid drinking too much alcohol. Alcohol consumption increases your blood pressure (not to mention the effects it has on your liver) and, like tobacco, can be highly addicting. Men should not consume more than 2 drinks per day and women, no more than one. 

4. Maintain a healthy weight- Being overweight can increase your risk for CVD. Talk to your doctor about your BMI (body mass index) to determine a healthy weight range for you based on your weight, height and body frame. 

5. Monitor your cholesterol and blood pressure- Very often, high blood pressure and cholesterol have no symptoms. It's a great idea to have your cholesterol level and blood pressure checked at least annually by your health care team... even if you feel healthy. Both high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol can be warning signs of CVD. There are plenty of options for decreasing high cholesterol and blood pressure ranging from diet and exercise to over-the-counter or prescription medication.

6. Monitor your blood glucose- Like your blood pressure and cholesterol, have your blood glucose checked at least annually. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, watch your blood sugar levels closely and work with your medical team regarding the various treatment options such as oral medication, diet and possibly insulin use.

7. Take your medication as prescribed- If your doctor diagnoses you with high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, it is crucially important that you take your medication as prescribed. Follow the instructions carefully. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor or pharmacist questions regarding your medicine or your diagnosis. If you notice side effects, call your pharmacist or doctor. 

 

Cardiovascular Disease is a preventable and manageable disease. Love your heart and your loved ones' hearts by following these steps.

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