Q: What is heart disease?
A: Heart disease is most often coronary artery disease, a disease affecting the heart, caused by blockages in the arteries that feed the heart. Cholesterol in the bloodstream causes plaque to build up and slow the blood flow to the heart. Over time, the heart can become damaged. A heart attack occurs when the blockage prevents the heart muscle from functioning properly, killing a portion of the heart muscle.
A: Lifestyle choices are vital in maintaining a healthy heart. Simple choices including healthy food choices, aerobic activities, stress-relief, not smoking and education can contribute to overall health. Don't be afraid to start slow and set reachable goals. Small improvements can lead to healthy habits. Educate yourself so you will know the best choices to make.
Q: Some food choices are confusing. How do I know what to look for?
A: Be aware of serving size, the type of fats, sodium, carbohydrates and calories. It's best to avoid processed foods and choose fresh, healthy options in a variety of colors.
A: The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise. An easy goal to remember is 30 minutes/day, 5 days/week. The time can be broken down into smaller segments of 10 or 15 minutes of exercise, so take the stairs and park a little further from the building to achieve your goal.
Q: What qualifies as exercise?
A: You can count any activity that raises your heart rate and gets your body moving. It is ideal to reach a fitness level that can maintain 30 continuous minutes of aerobic exercise including weight lifting and stretching to help maintain bone health and build lean muscle mass.
Q: Can I reverse the damage already done to my heart?
A: It is never too late to improve heart health. Damage can be reversed and lives can be saved - it is always better to make positive changes than allow the poor condition to deteriorate. It is important to have a full physical examination to reveal heart health and help track improvements. A physician can help you design an appropriate health plan.
Q: Heart disease runs in my family. How can I fight against genetic predispositions?
A: Genetics are a determinant in heart health, but it is always in your best interest to maintain a healthy lifestyle and do what you can to prevent heart disease. Be sure to talk with your physician about the best ways to combat your situation.
A: The first step in the fight against heart disease is prevention. Testing can reveal numbers including LDL and HDL cholesterol levels and blood pressure, which will help you gauge your overall heart health. Get tested regularly to make sure your numbers are in a safe zone. Your physician can help explain what your individual test results indicate and help you design a personalized plan to maintain a healthy heart.
A: Education is key in recognizing the symptoms of a heart attack. The symptoms can vary from person to person and between sexes. Seconds count, so if you think you are experiencing a heart attack, dial 911 immediately.