Myhand: Healthy habits for a healthier heart

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States. It’s also one of the most preventable diseases.

By making certain changes in your health habits, you can help to prevent death from heart attack and stroke.

There are plenty of ways to incorporate heart-healthy habits into your lifestyle.

Stop Smoking

One of the most important things you can do for your heart, and your overall health, is to quit smoking. If you smoke, stop now, and know that it is never too late to quit.

And do everything you can to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke. If you find you need help quitting, consider a smoking cessation program. Thibodaux Regional Medical Center has a program to help you stop smoking. Call 985-449-4686 for more information.

Exercise Regularly

Make exercise a priority. Regular exercise can help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, even if you are overweight. If you don’t have time for a full body workout, consider walking.

Try to get in at least 30 minutes of brisk walking for at least five days each week. And, if you’re particularly crunched for time, you can always break this up — walk for 15 minutes at lunchtime, and 15 minutes when you get home from work, for example. Every little bit helps.

Also, try not to sit too much, even if you’re walking daily. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to heart issues. Get moving as often as you can, and break up long periods of sitting whenever possible.

If you have a lengthy work call, try to walk around, or at least stand up, while you’re talking.

The Fitness Center of Thibodaux Regional offers many options to make regular exercise a reality.

Group exercise classes including yoga, water aerobics, and cycling; an indoor walking/running track and exercise equipment featuring the latest technology are just a few offerings to attain better heart health. For more info:

Watch Your Weight, Eat Healthy Fats

An expanding waistline can be an indicator of heart health. Watch your weight, and if you’re overweight, try to eat healthier and lose those extra pounds.

In terms of eating, limit the amount of saturated fats and salt in your diet, and try to increase the amount of “healthy” fats you eat.

These healthy fats include omega-3s and monounsaturated fats.

Both may help to lower LDL, or “bad” cholesterol and increase the “good” HDL cholesterol. Foods rich in omega-3 fats include salmon, mackerel, and walnuts, and monounsaturated fat-rich foods include avocados, almonds, and olive oil. Also, try to get more heart-healthy, plant-based foods, like leafy greens, on your plate.

Get Regular Health Checkups

If you’re concerned about heart health, talk to your doctor. They can help you come up with a suitable plan to lower your risk of heart disease. Your doctor may also check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Both are known as the “silent killers” for a reason – often, people experience no symptoms. And both can increase your risk for cardiovascular problems.

Getting your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked will help you know where you stand, so you can make any necessary lifestyle changes to improve your levels. If necessary, a physician can also recommend medication to bring blood pressure or cholesterol into a normal range.

Manage Stress

Everyone experiences a certain amount of stress, but if you find you’re stressed out more often than not, do what you can to relax. Regular exercise, including yoga, may help lower stress levels.

Additionally, consider learning some relaxation techniques, like meditation. Make it a point to unplug each day, taking some time for yourself and your happiness. Stress is unavoidable, but it’s how you handle that stress that’s key. If you feel like you need more help to manage stress, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor.

A Healthier Heart, a Healthier You

Your heart works hard for you, and you should work hard for it, too. Make this year the year you strive to improve your heart health.

By eating healthier, exercising, quitting smoking, managing stress, and having regular health screenings and checkups, you can live a longer, healthier life.

For more information about heart services and programs available at Thibodaux Regional Medical Center call 985-493-4326.