A Heart-to-Heart Conversation
With the blink of an eye, the first month of the year has passed. How close are you to achieving your goals to improve your health? If you haven’t started yet, don’t worry. February is a nationally dedicated month to focus on your heart health, and what better way to start your journey to improve your health than with of one the most vital organs in your body?
Your heart is a muscular organ about the size of your fist. It is made of muscle tissue because its only purpose is to pump blood, which carries oxygen and vital nutrients, through blood vessels to every part of your body. It is the nucleus of your cardiovascular system. When your heart stops beating (pumping blood), you will die in a manner of minutes without adequate medical treatment.
Only One Heart
You only have one heart, which is why you want to take care of this little “motor” that gives you life. Unfortunately, heart disease is the primary cause of death in the United States for both men and women. The American Heart Association states that one person dies every 40 seconds due to an affliction related to the heart.
Heart disease is widespread because of the high number of incidents of arterial hypertension, obesity and diabetes among Hispanics. A survey recently conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined that more than a quarter of Hispanics who responded to the survey, reported to have arterial hypertension, and almost one-third were not taking the necessary medications to help reduce risk of heart attack and stroke.
The CDC also reported that obesity in Hispanic adults increased from 21% to 36.7% within the last three years.
The good news is that there are many ways you can protect your heart. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is an important step.
A heart-healthy lifestyle starts with understanding the risks of heart disease and making decisions to reduce the probabilities of developing disease. Coronary heart disease — also called coronary artery disease — is the most common type. This occurs when the main blood vessels that bring blood to your heart (coronary arteries) become damaged or diseased.
Coronary heart disease and other types of illnesses of the heart can cause a heart attack. If you take preventative measures, you can reduce the risk of developing these diseases and improve your health and overall well-being at the same time.
Healthy Living is Key
Healthy heart maintenance depends on a healthy diet. Healthy nourishment for the heart includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains and meats that are low in fat, as well as limiting the consumption of sodium (salt), saturated fats, excess sugars and alcoholic beverages. This means reading labels at the grocery store and limiting your consumption of processed and fast-foods.
Controlling the type of food you eat will help you lose weight, which not only reduces the amount of work your heart has to do, but helps reduce body fat. The more body fat and weight you have, the more likely your chance of developing high blood pressure (a coronary disease), type 2 diabetes, respiratory issues and certain types of cancer.
Take time to be active — move more, sit less. Regular physical activity not only makes you look and feel good, it can reduce many factors linked to heart disease. Exercise helps reduce levels of cholesterol in the blood, can lower blood pressure and may reduce risk for type 2 diabetes. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends 150 minutes of physical activity each week to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Beware of the Silent Killer
Your blood pressure is an important indicator of your heart’s health. Blood pressure is a measurement of the force exerted against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood through your body. It’s normal for your blood pressure to rise when exercising because your muscles need more oxygen. But when you develop high blood pressure from unhealthy lifestyle habits, the constant pressure causes damage your arteries. Over time, an artery can weaken and bulge, or it can “harden” from fatty deposits called plaque.
Your blood pressure is measured by two numbers: Systolic (the pressure in the arteries during a heart beat) is the upper number, and diastolic (the pressure in the arteries when the heart relaxes between beats) is the lower number. For example, 120 over 80 is considered normal. When these numbers start to increase, it means your blood pressure is increasing.
Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. High blood pressure increases your chance of heart attack, stroke and other threats to your body. Most of the time, high blood pressure has no symptoms, which is why it’s known as the “silent killer.” The American Heart Association has created five categories of blood pressure ranges:
- Normal – systolic less than 120 and diastolic less than 80
- Elevated – systolic 120-129 and diastolic less than 80
- Stage 1 of Hypertension – systolic 130-139 or diastolic 80-89
- Stage 2 of Hypertension – systolic 140 or higher or diastolic 90 or higher
- Hypertensive Crisis – systolic higher than 180 and/or diastolic higher than 120
The Hypertensive Crisis stage requires urgent medical attention.
A “Cafecito” with Love
As part of the activities for American Heart Month, Equality Health’s “Cafecito Time con Equality Health” will feature the importance of taking care of your heart and share other healthy advice. Join the Cafecito conversation on Thursday, February 25 — English at 11 a.m. and Spanish at noon — on Facebook Live and Zoom.
“In this Cafecito we will talk about diseases of the heart and the importance of prevention,” said Maria Rebozo-LaPine, Cultural Care Product Manager at Equality Health and seminar moderator. “We will discuss how high blood pressure affects our community, especially women.”
Remember, it’s important to take care of your heart so it can take care of you. Simple care and maintenance can lead to a long and healthy life.
Published in Prensa Arizona, 2/11/2021