February is American Heart Month. So, in honor of the 59th year the U.S. has shined a spotlight on heart disease — the No.1 cause of death nationwide — here are simple ways you can prioritize your heart health.
Murtaza Dawood, an experienced cardiothoracic surgeon for Luminis Health Anne Arundel Medical Center, shared several recommendations to prioritize heart health.
Dawood specializes in performing operations to correct valve diseases and arrhythmia. Since the center opened its new Luminis Health Heart Surgery program two years ago, the heart surgery team has treated more than 200 patients with coronary artery disease, heart valve disease, vascular disease and cardiac arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation.
Diet is important for overall health. Dawood explained that all foods in moderation are acceptable. Naturally, he shared that some foods are better than others.
“Vegetables, fruits and lean meats should be the cornerstone of meals,” Dawood said. “The goal is balance.”
Berries, nuts, salmon, beans and oats are just a few things touted as heart superfoods.
Exercise can be intimidating to some people who don’t know where or how to start. The good news is that you don’t have to exercise vigorously to get benefits. While vigorous exercise is ideal, any physical activity is good.
“Staying active is one of the best ways to improve your heart health,” Dawood said. “The activities don’t have to be complicated. Simply walking is a start.”
The American Heart Association recommends five 30-minute moderate exercise sessions each week. Walking, jogging, swimming and biking are just a few workouts to consider. If 30 minutes is hard to fit into your schedule or even to physically complete in one window of time, you can still receive great benefits from 10- to 15-minute segments two or three times in one day. Small things like parking farther away when you go to the grocery store or taking the stairs at work can add up too.
“The use of pedometers or step-counters can help track the level of activity,” Dawood added.
“Cigarette smoking is one of the strongest risk factors for heart disease and probably one of the hardest habits to break,” Dawood said.
If the benefits alone aren’t enough to push you to quit smoking, keep in mind that the benefits of stopping aren’t limited to heart disease prevention. There’s an overall positive impact on the body.
To learn about free resources to assist in kicking the habit, call 443-481-5366 to speak with a Luminis Health tobacco treatment specialist.
It’s important to be proactive about your health. Therefore, preventive care under the guidance of a primary care physician is incredibly important as well.
“I frequently tell my patients that heart disease is like a moving train; we cannot stop the train but only affect its speed,” Dawood said.
There are factors out of our control such as race, family history and gender. However, there are behaviors or actions we can do to change that speed.
“Poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes will accelerate that train whereas physical activity, balanced diet and medications [to control other illnesses] will slow that train,” Dawood said.
The goal is to delay the disease process long enough to not affect quality of life. Heart disease is a broad category, and heart attack is usually the first sign that comes to mind. Chest pressure, shortness of breath, swelling in the lower legs and fatigue can be signs of heart disease. If you’re experiencing any of those symptoms, make an appointment with your provider immediately.
Learn more at www.luminishealth.org.
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