Heart Health- Where to Start

Heart disease is still the #1 killer of men and women in the U.S., affecting people at midlife as well as in old age. It also affects people who “feel fine.”

You have the power to protect and improve your healthy heart by embracing the Big Four healthy habits – eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding smoking. While heart disease is typically associated with “older” people, recent studies have shown that two-thirds of teenagers already have at least one risk factor.

So what can you do? Each risk factor increases your chances of developing heart disease, so the first step you can take is learning about your own risk factors. Once you understand your risk factors, then you can make healthy changes in your diet, physical activity and other daily habits.

In taking that first step, talk with your doctor and get a thorough check up. Ask your doctor for the information you need: What is your blood pressure? What are your cholesterol numbers? What is your body mass index (BMI) and waist measurement? What are your blood sugar levels? How much physical activity do you need to have a healthy heart? What kinds of activities should you be doing? What does a healthy heart eating plan look like for you? Should you meet with a dietician to develop and understand your healthy heart eating plan? How can you tell if you are having a heart attack?

Be open and honest when answering your doctor’s questions, otherwise your doctor can’t help you as thoroughly as possible because s/he doesn’t have all the information. If you don’t understand something, ask for it to be explained. Take notes because oftentimes you will be receiving so much information that you may not remember it all after you’ve left the doctor’s office.

Once you understand what risk factors you have – smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight and obesity, lack of exercise, diabetes – you and your doctor can develop a plan to make some heart healthy changes. You can make them gradually, one at a time. The important thing is that you make them.

It may be tempting to think that if you do one healthy activity, such as walking or swimming, that you can still eat a lot of fatty foods, for instance. You may think that the one change will take care of your heart disease risks. But that’s not the case. You need to make changes for each risk factor that you have.

If you suffer from stress, alcohol abuse, sleep apnea or are menopausal, these factors can add to your risks, so it’s important to understand your whole health picture with your doctor.

It’s never too late to make changes, and with your doctor’s support, the sooner the better.

Located in Cape May Court House, Waisbren Medicine is currently accepting new patients. Dr. Burton Waisbren is board certified in both internal medicine and cardiovascular diseases, and is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology. Call 609-465-1593 to set an appointment or visit www.waisbrenmedicine.com for more information about the practice.