How to Prevent or Improve Heart Disease

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Your heart works hard to keep your body going, so you show it some love in return. Simple actions can protect your ticker against cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death among men and women. B.N. Sreekumar, MD, a Baptist Health Medical Group cardiologist, Baptist Health Madisonville, known as “Dr. Sree”, offers advice on how to be heart healthy.

Healthy Habits

Get enough sleep. Logging seven to eight hours of sleep every night has a tremendous impact on your heart. It decreases stress levels and certain hormones in the body that tend to cause rhythm problems, and gives your heart rate and blood pressure time to “reset”. And it turns out there is something to that “early-to-bed, early-to-rise” thing – those who go to bed earlier are more likely to adopt healthy habits. We crave the worst foods after 8 p.m.

Think “Small Plates”

Eat small portions. Have a glass of water or a salad before your meal to prevent overeating. If you go to a restaurant, immediately ask for a take-home box for half of your food. Pop that food in the box for your next meal, and then nibble on what’s left.

Choose Healthy Foods

Go heavy on fruits and vegetables. Berries contain good-for-your-heart antioxidants. Pick lean proteins such as chicken or fish. For cooking, use olive oil, which has lower-saturated fat. Incorporate foods with “good” fats, such as nuts, salmon, avocado, sardines, white tuna, and olives.

Avoid Some Foods

Eat as little fried food as possible. (Go for broiled or baked instead.) Try not to eat processed foods like lunch meat or boxed meals which tend to be very salty.

Exercise! Here’s What to Know:

  • If you don’t have heart problems, aim to exercise for 30 minutes, five times a week. Start with a walk.
  • The goal is to increase your heart rate. To determine your ideal heart rate, subtract your age from 220. If you are in good physical condition, aim for a target heart rate that’s 85% of that number. For example, if you are 40 and in good health, your target heart rate would be 153. If you are in less-than-ideal condition, aim for 60 to 85 percent of 220 minus your age. You can purchase an inexpensive heart rate monitor to wear while exercising.
  • Start slow if you’ve had a heart attack or other heart issues. Join a cardiac rehabilitation program. Ask your doctor for his or her exercise recommendations.

More Ways to Put Your Heart First

Other factors can play a role in cardiovascular health. Dr. Sree suggests following these recommendations:

  • Quit smoking. Smoking increases blood pressure, decreases exercise tolerance and decreases good  (HDL) cholesterol.
  • Care for your mental health. It’s just as important for cardiovascular well-being as physical health. depression and anxiety have a pronounced effect on heart health.
  • Take your medications as instructed. Whether it’s aspirin or blood pressure medicine, follow your doctor’s orders.

Baptist Health’s highly skilled cardiologists offer a progressive approach to heart care with personalized, patient-oriented diagnosis and treatment protocols. Whether your diagnosis is a coronary artery and vascular disease, heart failure or heart rhythm disorders, our doctors and staff members help our heart patients in and around Kentucky live better, healthier lives with the best possible outcomes. Learn more about our services and find a Heart Care provider.