by Dr. Caleb Patee
Even with Valentine’s Day in the rearview mirror, the whole month is still a time to focus on the heart. February is American Heart Month! So, we take time to recognize the indicators and variables of cardiovascular issues and a heart-healthy lifestyle.
More than 13,000 articles have been published in the leading American heart journal, Circulation, helping to illustrate that diet is the cornerstone to a healthy life and a reduction in all sources of disease states. A low animal protein, plant rich diet has been the driver for good cardiovascular health. The Mediterranean diet is a good example – rich in monounsaturated fats and nutrients from olive oil, nuts, fruit, and whole grains; and limits consumption of animal-based protein, particularly red meat. Research has shown reduction in rates of cardiovascular disease such as hypertension, heart attack, and strokes.
Presently, the AHA recommends 150 or more minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise to maintain heart health. Research has shown this time can be adjusted based upon intensity and duration of exercise. Furthermore, an individual’s fitness level is a better indicator of mortality than well known predictors such as smoking, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Current conventional heart prevention is focused on good blood pressure control and limited cholesterol. Variables such as weight, diet, and exercise are causes for poor and good blood pressure. If blood pressure remains elevated, we know rates of cardiovascular disease are equally elevated. Goal blood pressure is systolic (top) less than 130 while diastolic (bottom) less than or equal to 80. Values greater than these demonstrate increased strain on the heart and should be focused on reduction methodologies.
Not all treatments need medication! The first and most effective treatment option is lifestyle intervention with diet, weight reduction, and cardiovascular exercise. A focus on a low salt diet to less than 2 grams a day of salt from all sources has been shown to reduce blood pressure values; this in conjunction with the DASH diet that is similar to a Mediterranean diet as noted above.
Although African American adults are 40 percent more likely to have high blood pressure, they are less likely than non-Hispanic whites to have their blood pressure under control.
Smoking is a well known risk factor for all disease states. In the case of cardiovascular health, it is known to increase arterial atherosclerosis, or plaque build up in heart arteries, this leads to an increase in heart attack and strokes. Fear not, quitting is the best treatment! Those that smoke and subsequently stop, can see a rapid initial reduction in their overall heart associated risk in the first year. There is time associated risk and benefit, those that are chronic smokers, will take up to 15 years to reach equivalent risks to those that have never smoked.
The risk does not stop with only the cigarette smoker. Increasing data demonstrates adverse outcomes for all forms of tobacco, including cigars, smokeless tobacco, pipes, and electronic cigarettes. Smoking cessation opportunities are available nationwide and regionally. Discuss your options with your doctor and check if your insurer has free programs to help you quit.
About Caleb Patee, DO, MPH
Dr. Patee is a family medicine physician who enjoys building relationships while discussing preventative medicine and implementing disease management strategies. He has a special interest in the interchange of healthcare and technology. How technology can be used to reach more patients to help progress preventative medicine and improve overall health of patients.
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