Stopping Heart Disease in Its Path: Awareness is the First Step
Part Two of a Two-Part Series
Heart disease may be the nation’s top cause of death, but did you know a few healthy habits could majorly decrease your risks? Even if you have a heart disease condition or survived a heart attack, these lifestyle habits can help maximize your recovery and improve the function of your active heart muscle.
A New Way
“What we like to focus on,” said Cindy Quintero, Community Impact Director at American Heart Association, “is eating healthful and getting active. If we incorporate these changes in our lifestyles, our risk for heart disease can decrease by as much as 80%.”
Changing lifestyle habits might seem hard at first, but sometimes it just takes looking at life in a new way.
“Don’t think about what you’re going to be taking away,” Dr. Dubry, Equality Health’s Medical Director Arizona Market, advised, “but what you’re going to have. Focus on things you’re adding rather than things you’re taking away.”
Get Healthful and Active
Eating healthful means eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, healthier proteins such as beans and nuts, low-fat dairy products and liquid nontropical oils and limiting processed and red meat. The type of foods your grandparents might have eaten.
“Add more vegetables to a meal or snack on them like carrots or cucumbers with a little salsa,” Quintero suggested. “That helps to incorporate these good foods into our diets. And then limit sodium and added sugars. Don’t forget about canned foods. They usually have a lot of salt in them. So definitely decrease the amount of salty foods you eat, even if it feels like the flavor is a little bit off.”
“Instead of eating a cookie after dinner,” Quintero continued, “go for a piece of fruit. Stay away from those sugary sodas and focus on making your own aqua frescas or drink more water. Maybe you can add fruits like strawberries or lemons to the water so it won’t be so bland.”
Find Your Fierce
The American Heart Association (AHA) — as well as the Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health and other leading health organizations — recommends regular physical activity for good health. The way to do this is to simply move more.
“We need to get moving to get our hearts pumping and the blood flowing,” Quintero said. “It’s recommended to do 150 minutes of physical activity a week. That’s a half hour a day for five days. The activity can be anything — walking your dog, going to the park, dancing at home or in a class, an exercise class at a club or on the internet.”
Even marching in place while watching your favorite TV program. Dr. Dubry suggested starting with five minutes a day.
“The next week,” Dr. Dubry gave the plan, “you do it for 10 minutes, and then the next week for 15, until you get up to a half hour five days a week. Then lift your knees up a little higher. Grab some cans of food to increase the weight.”
You Know What You Know
Along with eating healthy and getting active, Quintero stressed the importance of knowing your personal risks. Start with an annual checkup, and then keep track of your blood pressure.
“We all know someone who has high blood pressure or has had a heart attack,” Quintero said. “I always say, you know what you know. A lot of families don’t have the information on how to reduce their risk to avoid bigger problems. Create awareness and talk about it.”
“Do a self-monitor of your blood pressure at home,” Quintero suggested. “Learn the numbers from a blood pressure reading and how they can affect you. Track and send them to your provider.”
If your doctor prescribes medication for a heart condition, be sure to take it. Even if you don’t feel like you need it or maybe can’t afford it.
“Part of keeping healthy is taking your medication,” advised Dr. Dubry. “I would tell my patients, ‘If you have a problem, you talk to me. I would be more upset if you don’t talk to me than if you tell me you’re not taking your meds. If I know, I can help you.’”
Stressors In Life
Both Quintero and Dr. Dubry emphasized the need to quit smoking. In addition, get adequate sleep and avoid stress. If you need help, it’s okay to get it.
“Whether it is the supermom who thinks she can do everything,” Dr. Dubry explained, “the husband or father who has a difficult time admitting he cannot handle everything or the high school junior who just wants things to go back to the way they were, there is no shame in seeking help, talking to others and working through the stressors in life.
“Prayer can be a wonderful way to decrease your stress,” Dr. Dubry added, “Communicating one-on-one and expressing your fears and frustrations and knowing someone is listening can do wonders.”
Get more great tips and inspiring heart-healthy insight by visiting Cafecito Time con Equality Health available on Equality Health’s new YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/channel/UCKuzZGstk3oLHp5Cvm–wug. Host Maria Rebozo-La Pine and her special guest Cindy Quintero discuss symptoms, preventive care, managing conditions and community resources you can tap into to help you prevent or manage heart disease.
Published in Prensa Arizona, 2/24/2022