Heart Health

Who Stacked the Deck?

Heart Disease: Changing Your Odds

To some extent the health of our hearts depends on factors we cannot control. Sort of like being dealt a bad hand of cards. Perhaps the eating habits you learned when you were little have made you an overweight adult. Maybe you grew up an unwilling victim of secondhand smoke. If raised in a city, safety issues may have curtailed outdoor time; making regular exercise impossible. Genetics is another factor we cannot control; parents with high blood pressure, diabetes, and elevated cholesterol. Then, of course, there is age. Our risk for developing heart disease increases with each passing year. Do you ever feel like the cards have been stacked against you?

Obviously it is not possible to turn back the hands of time and change the past; nor can we subtract rather than add a year when our birthdays roll around. Efforts to maintain or improve the health of our hearts must be focused on things over which we have some control; the foods we eat and alcohol we consume - the cigarettes we smoke – how much we exercise - how we handle stress.

Sometimes it feels overwhelming, but there are some very simple things everyone can do to improve heart health. Here are a few suggestions:
  • Set aside 30 minutes most days to be physically active.
  • Increase the number of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet.
  • Eat less processed foods, they have lots of sodium.
  • Turn off the TV or computer and go to bed. Most adults require eight hours of sleep each night and many of us do not get it.
  • Not sleeping soundly, waking up tired, snoring excessively, or nodding off at work? Tell your healthcare provider. You may have sleep apnea; a common condition that increases your risk of heart disease.
  • Ask your healthcare provider for help regarding weight loss, smoking cessation, and exercise. Follow his or her advice about screening tests and treatment.
  • Take prescribed medications correctly and consistently.
  • Know your numbers – weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol.
  • Stop smoking. Try again… and again…and again. Experiment with patches, gum, pills, quit-lines, and support groups. Whatever it takes. It is never too late. Your heart disease risk will go down whether you quit at age 30 or 60.
  • Recognize your stress. Begin to address its causes and the effect it has on your happiness and on your heart.
Make your heart a priority this year. Instead of throwing in your cards, look for ways to deal with the hand you’ve been dealt. Over time, the odds are good that small changes will improve your ability to remain in the game!

Click below for more information:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Medline Plus

(Updated 4/23/2019)