Family history, health conditions and lifestyle choices can contribute to heart disease. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, a diet high in saturated fats, lack of exercise, smoking and alcohol abuse. Many risk factors for heart disease, however, can be minimized by adopting healthy habits.
Cardiovascular diseases can affect the heart and/or the blood vessels. The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease, in which the narrowing of or blockage within the coronary arteries limits the amount of blood reaching the heart. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Other heart diseases include:
- Congestive heart failure, which indicates that the heart is not pumping blood as well or efficiently as it should
- Heart arrythmias, such as tachycardia, when the heart beats too fast
- Bradycardia, when the heart beats too slow
- Congenital heart disease, which presents at birth
- Endocarditis, caused usually by an infection that has entered the blood stream and then inflames the inner linings of the heart’s valves and chambers
Lifestyle changes can improve heart health
Eating a heart-healthy diet and exercising regularly can help lower your risk of developing health conditions that contribute to heart disease.
A heart-healthy diet is:
- Low in sodium. A diet high in sodium can elevate blood pressure, which can increase chances of stroke.
- Low in saturated fats. Saturated fat, which can elevate cholesterol to unhealthy levels, is present in processed foods, cheese and red meat.
- Fruits and vegetables. Fresh, frozen or canned can all be healthy choices.
- Whole grains. Healthy grains are a good source of dietary fiber, which can help improve cholesterol levels.
- Limited or no alcohol. Excessive alcohol can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.
Along with a heart-healthy diet, strive to exercise regularly. Adults should exercise 30 minutes a day, five days a week, striving to do 150 minutes per week. Taking a daily walk is an easy way to ensure that you are getting regular exercise. It’s important to do muscle strengthening, too, such as yoga or weight training, depending on what your primary care provider recommends.
Another important lifestyle change that can make a big impact on your heart health is to quit smoking. Smoking can increase the amount of plaque in your blood vessels, which can contribute to a heart attack or a stroke. Your primary care provider can help you determine the most effective way to quit smoking and discuss other ways to reduce your risk for heart disease.
Family history, medication and monitoring
It’s important to know your family’s history of heart disease, so that you can have a more complete discussion with your primary care provider. In addition to lifestyle changes, your provider may also recommend medication to help lower your risk. If necessary, cardiac testing is available at Coquille Valley Hospital, including electrocardiograms, heart monitoring systems, and cardiac stress testing using a treadmill. Schedule an appointment with your primary care provider today and make your heart health a priority.