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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.