News and Information

The Heart of the Matter

02-09-2015

February is national Heart Health Awareness Month and with our New Year’s resolutions fading into the rear view mirror, cold weather keeping us inside and waistlines expanding, its seems timely to discuss heart health. Heart disease remains the number one cause of death in men and women in Gaston County and the United States. However, heart disease can be delayed and even prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle that incorporates proper nutrition, physical activity, smoking cessation and the recommended amount of sleep each night.

Nutrition

A healthy diet is the cornerstone to a heart-healthy life. If you are not already eating a healthy diet, the decision to eat healthier should be gradual but also long-lasting. A diet that over-emphasizes certain foods and completely excludes others is not healthy or sustainable. The American Heart Association recommends a dietary pattern that encourages a majority of calories from fruits, vegetables and whole grains, moderate consumption of fish and nuts, and minimizes simple sugars, salt and fat. Our overall goal should be to achieve a body mass index below 25. This index is based on your height and weight, and can be calculated utilizing smartphone apps and online tools such “BMI Calculator.”

Physical Activity

Due to the daily demands of life that leave many of us pressed for time, the last thing we find time for is exercise. A sedentary lifestyle raises a person’s risk of developing heart disease and other health conditions. The human body is designed to move, which is why physical activity is critical to maintaining good health. It’s important to incorporate activity slowly and build up to your exercise capacity. Starting too aggressively can lead to burnout and even worse, injury. The recommended goals for daily physical activity include, 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity five times per week or 25 minutes of vigorous activity three times per week, and moderate to high intensity strength training twice a week.

Tobacco

Smoking is toxic to our bodies and overall health. In addition to the numerous cancer-causing substances found in cigarettes, nicotine and carbon monoxide directly injure the blood vessels, which lead to blockages in the arteries and subsequently, heart attacks and strokes. Smoking is very addictive both chemically and psychologically, making it very difficult to quit.

Quitting smoking is not an act but rather a process that begins with making a commitment to break the habit followed by a period of preparation. This process includes setting a quit date, choosing a method or aid to help with quitting, removing triggers from your home (cigarette lighters and ashtrays) and enlisting the help of friends and family to hold you accountable. Tell those around you your quit date and your method for quitting. If you live with someone who smokes, encourage them to join in you in your pursuit to stop smoking. A person’s success rate increases if all members of a household are smoke-free.

CaroMont Health offers a tobacco cession program called Quit Smart. To learn more, call 704.671.7936.

Sleep

Inadequate sleep is not only annoying, but it can contribute to health problems. A number of factors contribute to sleep deprivation, which continues to grow to epidemic proportions in our society. We’ve known for years that untreated sleep apnea leads to the development of heart disease. More recently, research shows that any chronic cause of sleep deprivation (less than 6 to 7 hours per night) leads to increased blood pressure, higher caloric intake and a decline in mental function. Additionally and due to the digital age in which we live, insomnia has now been linked to using electronic devices prior to bedtime. Ideally, devices should be shut down at least one hour before going to bed to ensure we get adequate rest each night. Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition. If you or a loved is having difficulty sleeping, particularly if you’re overweight or are snoring excessively, it is important to talk to a medical professional.

Leading a healthy lifestyle isn’t always easy, but it’s achievable. The key is to take the first step towards heart health and the subsequent steps will get easier.

This article was provided by Michael Tamberella, MD, an Interventional Cardiologist at CaroMont Heart in Gastonia. Dr. Tamberella was instrumental in pioneering a cutting-edge cardiac stem cell clinical trial at CaroMont Health. The study earned the Charlotte Business Journal’s 2013 Excellence in Healthcare award.

Categories: Health