A big part of living well is taking care of your cardiovascular health. That means taking care of your heart and blood vessels to avoid heart attack, stroke and congestive heart failure. There are daily habits and lifestyle changes that can improve your cardiovascular health and avoid these terrible complications. Here are some of them to consider:
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death. Not only does smoking cause cancer, more importantly it affects the heart and blood vessels directly. There is increased plaque formation in the blood vessels and stickiness of the blood elements leading to clots that cause heart attacks and stroke. So if you smoke, stop immediately. If you don’t smoke— don’t start, and try to avoid secondhand smoke.
Maintain a healthy blood pressure
Hypertension or high blood pressure increases your risk of stroke and blood vessel disease. As your heart pumps against an elevated blood pressure, changes occur in the heart muscle leading to congestive heart failure. A normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 and treatment goals are to maintain blood pressure less than 130/80 in patients with high blood pressure. This often takes lifestyle changes and medication to attain these goals. A low sodium diet, weight reduction, and exercise can reduce or eliminate the medication requirements to maintain a healthy blood pressure.
Know your cholesterol level
The optimal cholesterol level can vary from person to person depending on their other existing health conditions. Discuss with your doctor what an optimal cholesterol level is for you and work hard to maintain that level even if it means taking medication.
Eat a healthy diet
A healthy diet includes appropriate amounts of calories to reach and maintain an ideal weight. Being obese or even overweight increases the likelihood of diabetes, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels. These conditions can put you at risk for cardiovascular disease and complications like stroke, heart attack and heart failure. The types of food that you eat is also very important with an emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables and limiting the amount of fats (especially saturated fats) and sugar.
Aerobic exercise for 30 minutes (exercise that involves using your arms and legs like walking, jogging, swimming, dancing) a day has tremendous health benefits such as improving control of blood pressure, diabetes, and weight. In addition, it leads to stress reduction and an increased feeling of well-being. Increasing stamina reduces the symptoms of shortness of breath and fatigue. It doesn’t have to be the same activity every day, and it doesn’t even have to be done all at once. At least 10 minutes of continuous exercise counts towards your daily total of 30 minutes.
Living well leads to a chance for better health and a longer life free from the complications of cardiovascular disease like stroke, heart attack, and congestive heart failure—and who wouldn't want that?
Dr. Louis Glade has been practicing Interventional Cardiology at West Jefferson Medical Center for over 30 years. A native new Orleanian, Dr. Glade attended LSU medical school and did his internal medicine residency and cardiology fellowship at Ochsner Foundation Hospital. He is board certified in cardiology, advanced heart failure management, and internal medicine. He finds it tremendously rewarding to follow up with his patients over a period of years and being a positive influence on their health. During his career, he has been President of the Greater New Orleans American Heart Association, Chairman of the Cardiology Section at West Jefferson Medical Center, Medical Director for the Heart Clinic of Louisiana and Medical Director for the West Jefferson Heart Failure Resource Center. He takes great pleasure in spending time with his wife, grandchildren, and at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.