28 Days of Heart Health Feb. 23-28
February 4, 2022
Got Kids? Give ‘Em Heart!
As a parent, there are a number of great reasons to get your kids to think of their health as a priority. And there are a number of great ways to help them do that, including regular physical activity.
Creating a more active family lifestyle can be done anytime, anywhere. Family walks after dinner, socially distanced weekend excursions like hiking,– these are inexpensive and easy ways to get you and your kids moving together. If you’re looking for a goal to stay motivated, consider finding a local virtual 5K and fun run that you and your family can train for together. Whatever you choose, the bottom line is to get up and get moving.
Besides instilling the importance of regular physical activity to your kids, joining in the fun as a parent serves as a great example to your kids and allows you the opportunity to bond with them more.
Your heart and their hearts will thank you!
Heart Health at Any Age
Things change as we get older. How you took care of yourself in your 20s might be very different from how you take care of yourself today. That said, it’s important to understand what you should keep in mind as you age. Check out these pointers on what to remember as each decade comes and goes, as well as some things to keep in mind at every day at every age.
All Age Groups: The food you eat can directly contribute to your risk of heart disease, so choose a healthy eating plan that includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean poultry and fish. Avoid saturated and trans-fats and an excess of sodium, as well as tobacco products. Pair your healthy eating with regular physical activity. And be aware of the warning signs of heart disease so you can stay on top of your health and help stop issues before they become bigger problems.
Your 20s: Find a primary care provider and get in the habit of regular wellness exams. Even healthy people need providers. Establishing a relationship with one can have long lasting benefits for your health.
Your 30s: Juggling your job and the needs of a family can start to increase stress levels and leave little time for physical activity. Make heart healthy living a family affair with healthy family meals eaten together and family walks each week. Take some time to learn your family history to spot any indicators of future heart health issues for yourself, and make sure your primary care provider is aware of your family medical history. And take some time for you. Stress can have far-reaching impacts on your overall health – including your heart – so even if it’s just a hot bath at the end of the day, don’t lose sight of your own well-being.
Your 40s: You may notice your metabolism slowing down, resulting in the need to work a little more diligently in both diet and exercise to maintain a healthy weight. Finding a workout buddy can help keep exercise engaging. Have your blood sugar checked, in addition to your other heart numbers like blood pressure and cholesterol. If you’re snoring, it could be a clue that you have sleep apnea. Talk with your provider about potential solutions, as sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
Your 50s: Keep up with your healthy eating, taking some time to refresh the healthy habits you’ve established over the years. Re-familiarize yourself with the warning signs of heart problems. At this point, despite your best efforts, you may have been diagnosed with high blood pressure or cholesterol. Follow the treatment plan your provider sets out for you to lower your risk for complications.
Your 60s and beyond: Continue seeing your provider regularly. If you haven’t already had one, an ankle-brachial index test can assess the pulse in your feet to help identify any peripheral artery disease, which is the buildup of plaque in the leg arteries. Keep paying attention to maintaining a healthy weight, and be careful not to fall into bad habits. Stay abreast of the warning signs of heart attack, not just in yourself but in your loved ones as well. Men and women can experience heart problems differently and it may be up to you to get your spouse to see a provider.
Heart health is a lifelong journey. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle, engaging with your provider about your health and knowing what to look for when it comes to potential issues, you’re going a long way in ensuring a good life for your heart. After all, we only get one. Take care of it well – today and every day.
Minutes Matter: Knowing the Signs Can Save a Life
When a heart attack strikes, minutes matter. Those first few minutes following a heart attack are critical in determining the short-term and long-term outcome for the patient in the days to come. According to the National Institutes of Health, about half of those who die from heart attacks will die within an hour of their first symptom. Being able to quickly recognize what’s happening and act can help ensure that the victim gets proper medical treatment as soon as possible.
If you or someone around you is experiencing any of the following symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately to receive help and treatment as quickly as possible.
Heart Attack Symptoms
- Chest discomfort (Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.)
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body (Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.)
- Shortness of breath (with or without chest discomfort)
- Other signs, including breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness
- Face drooping (If you notice one side of your or someone else’s face drooping, or if it is numb, this is a telltale sign of a stroke. If you are uncertain, ask the person to smile.)
- Arm weakness (Many stroke victims experience weakness or numbness in one arm.)
- Speech difficulty (Speech may be slurred, prohibited or difficult to understand. If someone you are with is experiencing this, ask him or her to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” If he or she cannot, call 9-1-1 immediately.)
Cardiac Arrest Symptoms
- Sudden loss of responsiveness (If the person does not respond when tapped on the shoulder, they are likely experiencing cardiac arrest.)
- No normal breathing (The victim does not take a normal breath when you tilt the head up and check for at least five seconds.)
Talk with your provider to learn more about the symptoms and steps you can take today to improve your heart health.
Five Surprising Ways to Boost Your Heart Health
You probably know that healthy eating and regular physical activity are critically important to maintaining good heart health. But there are a number of other things you can do to give your heart an extra boost that might surprise you.
Laugh. Research has pointed to laughter having several benefits for your heart health, including increased blood flow and lowered stress levels. It turns out that laughter really is one of the best medicines, after all.
Have a little dark chocolate. Yep. You heard us. Dark chocolate contains polyphenols, which reduce the number of cell-damaging free radicals in your body. Just don’t go overboard – research suggests indulging three times a month.
Be a good neighbor. Next time you see your neighbor, say hi! According to a University of Michigan study, people who felt like a part of their community, trusted their neighbors and felt safe were 34 percent less likely to have a heart attack.
Spend time with your pet. Some studies have shown that owning a pet can help increase physical activity and lower blood pressure.
Get a flu shot. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2013 showed that persons who received a flu shot reduced their risk of heart disease, stroke, heart failure or death from cardiac-related causes by roughly 36 percent.
Heart Disease: An Unwanted Heirloom
You’ve got your father’s eyes, your grandmother’s laugh, but what about your uncle’s heart disease? While many inherited traits are good, others – like heart disease – aren’t. It’s important to know how your family’s history with heart disease can affect your own heart health.
If you don’t know your family’s full health history, start with your immediate family first. Find out if your siblings, parents or grandparents had or have heart disease. Share this information with your primary care provider so that they can help you develop a preventive care plan that works best for you.
Even if your family has a clean bill of health, it’s still a good idea to talk with your provider about your risks, as there are other genetic factors that may increase your risk for heart disease.
While you can’t choose your genes, you can take preventive measures to reduce your risk – like healthy eating, regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding tobacco and staying on top of your numbers like blood pressure and cholesterol.
Did You Brush? The Surprising Link Between Dental Health and Your Heart
Thank you for joining us on this 28-day journey of heart health. We hope you’ve found it helpful and that you’ve learned something about your heart that you may not have known before.
Remember, heart health isn’t about a crash diet. It’s not about getting up at 5 am to run 10 miles every day or vowing to never eat dessert again. And it’s not a sprint. It’s a commitment to yourself and your family to make heart health – and your overall health – a priority in your life today and every day. Before we leave you, here’s one more interesting tidbit about heart health that you might not know.
How well do you take care of your teeth and gums? Some research has shown a link between poor oral health and poor heart health. Studies have shown a link between gum disease and increased heart disease risk and that poor oral health can increase the risk of bacterial infection in your bloodstream. One study published by the American Heart Association showed gum disease appearing to worsen blood pressure and interferes with hypertension medications.
While there’s no proof of poor oral health as a specific cause for heart disease, it’s still important to take care of your teeth and gums every day as part of your overall health plan. Brushing your teeth at least twice daily, flossing daily and scheduling regular dental cleanings and check-ups will keep you on the right path of good oral health.