March 29th, 2017
Heart Health, it’s Really All About You
Dr. Joseph Chavez Carey, MD, FAAFP
When it comes to heart health, it’s really all about you – your lifestyle, your risk factors, your family history – and all of the things you can do to foster optimal heart health.
First, let’s look at an issue that many people feel they have no control over: genetics. Heart health can have a very strong genetic component. It’s not uncommon for a group of people – a family for example – to all register high cholesterol levels regardless of their individual lifestyles or risk factors.
You can exert control over genetic factors. Early detection is not only critical in effectively treating heart issues, but preventing them as well. Genetic components can be positively impacted by good management. So using cholesterol as an example, we recommend everyone starting at 40 years of age get theirs checked. Knowing your baseline helps you get to where you need and want to be for overall wellness. Your doctor may decide that you should be screened earlier depending on your risk factors.
There are myriad ways we can maintain good heart health that are far more within our control. Smokers are at double the risk for heart issues than nonsmokers, for example. So, quit smoking! Balancing a good diet and adequate exercise is also effective.
There is a simple rule of thumb for striking that balance: If you eat a pretty good diet but you’re sedentary, you should increase your activity; and vice versa.
For heart health, eschew junk foods in favor of more servings of fruits and vegetables, get plenty of fiber, and keep your refined sugars– aka most junk foods – toa minimum.Your exerciseregimen can be as simple as walking for 30 minutes, five times a week. Regular, moderate intensity exercise is great for the heart.
Knowing your risk factors and seeing your doctor regularly to understand the details of your own health are excellent steps toward heart health. Diagnoses that increase your risk of heart issues include: high blood pressure; diabetes; obesity; and others. Making medically informed lifestyle choices to promote overall well-being are excellent preventive measures.
Your last lines of defense can be recognizing the signs of a heart attack. Chest pain is the most common sign. Shortness of breath and breaking out in a sweatare others, as well as sudden nausea and back or jaw pain.
If your doctor has told you that you’re at risk for a heart attack, or if you’re an older adult, take these developments seriously. Don’t wait; call 911.Your likelihood of survival and minimizing the effects of a heart attack go way up when intervention occurs quickly.
Knowledge is the key to promoting heart health. Know your risks, know the state of your health, know what to eat and how much to exercise, and know how and when to find the right medical guidance toward your goals.
Dr. Joseph Chavez Carey, MD, FAAFP, is Primary Care Medical Director of Orange Regional Medical Group. He is Board-certified in Family Medicine and attended medical school at New York University School of Medicine. He completed his internship and residency at Contra Costa Regional Medical Center and is fluent in Spanish.