You mention your heart all the time ... whether it’s having a heart-to-heart chat, getting your heart broken, or realizing someone’s heart was in the right place. But how often do you think about your actual heart? You know, the one that’s key to your circulatory system and provides oxygen and nutrients to your entire body? Exactly.
Since February is American Heart Month, it’s a good time to give cardiac health some thought. The bad news is that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. The good news? According to the American Heart Association, 80 percent of heart disease and stroke events may be preventable through education, lifestyle changes, and risk-factor modification. Making just a few minor adjustments in your daily life can significantly reduce your chances of developing cardiovascular disease.
To find out what changes we should be considering and the best ways to prioritize heart health, we sat down with Samuel Suede, MD, Chief of Cardiology at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center.
Q: For those looking to get serious about heart health, but not sure where to start, what simple lifestyle changes would you recommend?
A: Remember, you are what you eat, so eat healthy! It’s important to maintain a healthy weight, not only to care for your heart, but also for your overall well-being. Include a wider variety of “color” in your foods. Consume unprocessed healthy foods rich in nutrients and vitamins, such as green leafy vegetables, fresh berries and fruits, fish, lean meats, and whole grains. Cut back on salty and sweet. Read labels and plan ahead for meals. Limit your alcohol intake to one drink per day. If you do overindulge, don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t give up.
Q: Diet aside, what habits can people change to be heart-smart?
A: Move more! Make exercise a regular habit, aiming for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, five days a week. If you have a job that keeps you deskbound, take breaks to stretch and go for a walk. It’s also the perfect time to quit smoking.
Q: How does stress affect the heart, and how can we better manage it?
A: Stress itself can cause and aggravate hypertension. It can also lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as smoking, excessive drinking, overeating, and physical inactivity, causing high blood pressure and cholesterol—both of which increase the risk of heart disease. So, most importantly, relax more. Learn healthy ways to cope with stress—a hobby, a new exercise routine, time with family and friends. Our Graf Center for Integrative Medicine at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center offers yoga, guided meditation, massage, acupuncture, aromatherapy, Reiki, nutritional counseling, and various other services to help relax the mind and body.
Q: What are the key takeaways, and how can we track our progress?
A: This year, focus on you. Manage and prevent high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes through proper nutrition, exercise, medication, if necessary, and regular follow-up visits with your physician. Know your numbers. What are your blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels? Ask for printouts of your lab work or make use of your physician network’s online portal. Taking steps to reduce these levels if they’re elevated can significantly decrease your risk of developing heart disease. Take note of your activity and behavior changes between visits, as well as any resultant changes in your levels. Most important, don’t ignore the warning signs. If you develop new chest discomfort or experience difficulty breathing, palpitations, lightheadedness, or are feeling faint, be sure to reach out to your doctor immediately, as these could be symptoms of heart disease.
Q: Any final piece of advice for American Heart Month?
A: When you’re shopping for Valentine’s Day, take the jumbo heart-shaped boxes of chocolate out of your cart and pick flowers instead.
Englewood Hospital and Medical Center
350 Engle St, Englewood, NJ