Defending Your Heart
With heart disease being the leading cause of death in both men and women, it is important we look for opportunities to improve our well-being, strengthen our heart and take control of our health. Many of the problems associated with cardiovascular disease are related to a process known as atherosclerosis which is characterized by an accumulation of plaque in the walls of blood vessels. This gathering of plaque narrows the arteries placing individuals at an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. There are things we can do to reduce our risk.
Defending from cardiovascular complications begins early in life, however; we can make a difference every day regardless of age. A healthy diet can play an essential role in reducing our risk of heart disease. We should strive to include as many nutrient-rich foods as possible into our diet. This type of food contains minerals, protein, whole grains and other nutrients while maintaining a low-calorie content. A healthy dietary pattern should include a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, skinless poultry and fish, nuts, and low-fat dairy products. Not only is it important to ingest heart healthy food, but also to limit food high in calories and low in nutrients. Many of these foods will be processed and contain a high amount of saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and sugar.
An active, healthy lifestyle is one of the biggest weapons we can do on our own to reduce the chance of developing cardiovascular disease. Physical activity is anything that makes you move your body and burn calories. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. These activities could include climbing stairs or playing sports, but the simplest way to make an effective change to your heart health is walking. Walking is an aerobic exercise and can make a large impact on your cardiovascular health. This is especially true if you can raise and lower your heart rate multiple times throughout the workout.
While both diet and lifestyle are key components to preventing heart disease, they are only part of the picture. Many factors exist that impact cardiovascular health including smoking, alcohol intake, hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes. Making healthy lifestyle choices and keeping other diseases under control is a terrific way to reduce your risk. Medications play a vital role in treating these diseases and health professionals continue to stress the importance of taking medications exactly as prescribed. A patient should not resort to taking medication only when feeling ill. When an individual complies, and adheres to their prescribed medication regimen it has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke.
Pharmacists are placed in an ideal position to help patients manage diseases and lifestyle. Often being the first point-of-contact to the public, pharmacists can ensure a patient is confident with their medication regimen. Pharmacists can offer guidance on dosing instructions, side effects, and help the patient understand why compliance is so important to their health. Not only are pharmacists able to help with medication through consultation, they are able to collaborate with physicians by referring patients with cardiovascular symptoms to be seen and diagnosed. Additionally, pharmacists can provide counseling on lifestyle, such as smoking cessation, diet, and exercise.
With so much that can impact our cardiovascular health, we need to be diligent in our efforts to reduce personal risk. We may all enjoy an occasional indulgence but must strive to keep our health in mind. It is important to remember the overall pattern of choices in both food and lifestyle will be significant factors determining our cardiovascular risk. Take control of your health and utilize the professional services available through your pharmacy. Pharmacists and dietitians are available to help you optimally defend yourself against heart disease.
Cory Block is a Pharmacy Manager at Martin’s Western & Mayflower in South Bend.