Give yourself a gift that’s romantic, thoughtful, and — best of all — free. It’s the gift of a healthy heart, and keeping it healthy affects not only yourself, but your loved ones as well.
“Anyone can be at risk for heart disease. It’s the No. 1 killer of both men and women in the U.S., but it is one of the diseases we can actually help to prevent,” says Amber Hyde, MD, an independently practicing family medicine physician on the medical staff of Methodist Mansfield Medical Center.
According to Dr. Hyde, making time in your life for your health is the single most important thing you can do for yourself. A significant number of neighbors, friends, and families in our community are in danger of developing heart disease. Among people in our community, more than 30 percent are at risk for high cholesterol and 40 percent for high blood pressure, according to a recent community health assessment by Methodist Mansfield.
But people can lower their risk of heart disease with simple lifestyle changes, according to Dr. Hyde. Watch your cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and work to improve these numbers if they are not normal; maintain an ideal body weight; stop smoking; choose a diet low in saturated fats, trans fats, and sodium; and eat whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
“One of the easiest things you can do is to get moving. Thirty minutes a day of walking — or even dancing — can improve your health by reducing your risk for heart disease and improving blood pressure. It’s one small step everyone can do,” Dr. Hyde says.
If you are at an increased risk of heart disease because of family history or other inherited genetic factors, early detection is important. You may want to be screened for heart disease sooner or more often than people who are at an average risk. You should discuss your risk factors with your personal physician.
Screening for heart disease includes routine blood pressure checks. “Similar to heart disease, blood pressure can also go unnoticed and untreated for years until it’s discovered during an exam or when it causes another problem with your health,” says Dr. Hyde.
Blood pressure is the force with which blood pulses against your artery walls. It’s measured in two numbers. The first, systolic, is the pressure on the arteries as the heart pumps blood. The second, diastolic, is the pressure of blood flow when the heart is at rest.
High blood pressure, known as hypertension, is far more than just a matter of numbers. It can damage the artery walls, causing plaque to build up. High blood pressure — especially if it’s not well controlled — can lead to heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney damage, and blindness.
Blood pressure can often be lowered with changes in lifestyle, such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol, increasing the amount you exercise, and changing your diet. Medication may also be necessary. The first step is seeing your physician to find out what your blood pressure is and reviewing your risk factors for heart disease.
Finally, understand that all heart attacks are not sudden and intense. Many start out slowly with mild pain or discomfort. According to the American Heart Association, chest discomfort; shortness of breath; back, neck, or jaw pain; discomfort in one or both arms; nausea or vomiting; light-headedness or dizziness; or unusual fatigue are all symptoms and warning signs. Listen to your body, and if you suspect these symptoms, call your doctor immediately. If you or someone you know is experiencing one or more of these symptoms, don’t wait to call for help. Call 911 for the fastest way to receive lifesaving treatment.
Show your heart some love and take action today by making an appointment with your physician for better heart health.
To find a Methodist Mansfield physician participating in the Mayo Clinic Care Network telephone 214-947-6296 or visit Answers2.org.
Texas law prohibits hospitals from practicing medicine. The physicians on the Methodist Health System medical staff are independent practitioners who are not employees or agents of Methodist Health System.