Heart Health

By: Karen Davis, Family Nurse Practitioner


Each year, 500,000 Americans die of heart disease, and approximately half of them are women.  As early as age 45, a man’s risk of heart disease begins to rise significantly. For a woman, risk starts to increase at age 55.  Fifty percent of men and 64 percent of women who die suddenly of heart disease have no previous symptoms of the disease.  But, the good news is that you have a lot of power to protect and improve your heart health.   The following tips from UW Health are an excellent way to take charge of you heart health.

 1.   Schedule a Yearly Checkup 

 Your heart is in your hands. Each year on your birthday, schedule a checkup to have your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels checked, and ask your doctor to help you reach or maintain a healthy weight. Be sure to follow your healthcare professional's recommendations, including taking prescribed medications as directed.

2. Get Physical

 Step, march or jog in place for at least 15 minutes a day while watching your favorite TV shows. Increase your activity by five minutes each week until you're getting a minimum of 30 minutes most days of the week.

 3. Drink More Water

 Take a water bottle with you wherever you go. It'll keep you hydrated and the bottle's weight will strengthen your arms.

 4. Eat Healthy

 Keep packages of unhealthy food hidden. Put raw veggies and fruits in front in the refrigerator and healthy snacks in the front of the pantry, so that's what you see first. If you grab healthy foods for a minimum of 21 times, healthy choices will become a habit.

 Also, look for the American Heart Association red and white heart-check mark. This easy, reliable grocery shopping tool helps you identify foods that can be part of a sensible eating plan. 

5. Control Cholesterol

 Eating foods high in saturated fat, trans fat or cholesterol can lead to high blood cholesterol. To help keep your cholesterol levels down, eat foods low in saturated fat and trans fat, such as lean chicken or turkey (roasted or baked, with skin removed), fruits and veggies, low-fat or fat-free dairy products and whole grains.

 6. Cut Down on Salt

 To help lower high blood pressure, watch your salt intake. It may be disguised in food labels as sodium alginate, sodium sulfite, sodium caseinate, disodium phosphate, sodium benzoate, sodium hydroxide, monosodium glutamate (MSG), or sodium citrate.

 7. Quit Smoking

 Try this four-step way to kick your habit:

-On Day 1, cut the number of cigarettes you smoke by half

-On Day 3, cut the number of cigarettes you smoke in half again

-And on Day 5, cut your smoking in half again

-On your Quit Day... quit

 8. Maintain a Healthy Weight

 Excess weight increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. To achieve steady, painless weight loss, take it easy. Each day, if you eat 200-300 calories less than you would normally consume, and exercise at least 30 minutes on most or all days of the week, you'll get closer to your goal and be able to achieve weight loss that's steady and painless.

 9. Stay Positive

 If you get off your exercise schedule, have a cigarette, or eat a fattening meal, immediately get back on track toward re-establishing a healthy lifestyle.

 10. Give Yourself Credit

 To maintain momentum with exercising, losing weight, or quitting smoking, keep track of your achievements and reward yourself by doing something you enjoy.

When it comes to heart health, what’s good for you is good for your whole family—including its youngest members. We now know that two-thirds of teenagers have at least one risk factor for heart disease, from overweight and “couch potato-itis” to unhealthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Even more disturbing, about one million U.S. teenagers have metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of risk factors that greatly increases the risk of a later heart attack. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to help them develop heart healthy habits—and the earlier the better……so get moving for a happy heart!

Karen Davis is a Family Nurse Practitioner at Calais Regional Medical Services Family Practice.  She provides a full complement of health services.  CRMS care includes chronic disease management, acute care and injury visits, preventative care, physicals and workers comp exams. CRMS Family Medicine can be reached at 454-8195, option 1 and is located at 37 Palmer St. in Calais.