There is no doubt about it… heart disease can destroy lives. But, it doesn’t have to. If you find out you have heart disease or are at risk for heart disease early on, you can take steps to prevent it from destroying your life.
Prevent Heart Disease from Ruining your Life
How do you do that? There are several steps you can take to help preserve your life and that of your children, especially if you have a genetic history of heart disease, or are a woman. Woman are almost twice as likely to develop undetected heart disease over their lifetime, so it is critical they take steps to protect their lives and the lives of any female relatives they associate with.
This does not mean that mean are not at risk. They are. Women just need to know that the symptoms of heart disease may manifest differently than they do in men. For this reason, women should ask their doctor to screen for heart disease as part of their routine health workup. You can for example, ask your gynecologist to do a cholesterol check during your annual pap. If you are male, you can also ask your doctor to perform life-saving tests during an annual physical to help assess your risk of heart disease.
Your Risk of Heart Disease May Change From Year to Year
Most people think that if they get the green light from their doctor one year, they are safe for the rest of their life. Often however, this isn’t the case. Just because your doctor says you are safe one year does not mean you are safe for the rest of time. Make sure you keep up with your healthy habits so you continue to improve your odds of living a healthy life.
What are some other steps women and men alike can follow to help reduce their risk of heart disease? Let’s find out. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know to combat heart disease. Use this checklist as a reminder of the steps you need to take to preserve your health and wellness.
While you do not have to follow each of the steps in chronological order, you should follow the steps outlined in this checklist if you want to live a long and healthy life.
The steps outlined are simple enough that anyone can follow. So take notice and take heart – you can protect your heart, you just need to start. Are you ready?
I hope you said yes, because here is the information you need to protect your heart from now to eternity.
Heart Disease Prevention Checklist
You need to take action to preserve your health. Whether you are a man or a woman, if you don’t care for your body in just the right way, you may be at risk for major heart disease. Fortunately, heart disease is largely preventable if you know what to look for and how to protect your body from the onslaught that occurs when heart disease settles in.
Use the following guidelines in your journey to health and wellness. You will find they help you realize the long and happy life you’ve always wanted, without much effort.
Step 1: Get an Annual Check-Up and Ask Your Doctor for Screening Tests
We’ve already mentioned how important it is to get an annual check-up. Everyone, regardless of their health, should get an annual physical. You should ask your doctor to provide you with routine tests that can help detect heart disease in its earliest stages.
This is especially important for people with a family history of heart disease. If you or someone you love suffers from heart disease, then you will want to do everything you can to prevent it. Here are some of the items you’ll want to ask your doctor about during your annual physical. Know that if your tests come back normal for several years in a row, your doctor may recommend you get these tests less frequently. The choice is yours.
- BMI – Your doctor should check your “body mass index” or BMI. Your BMI will give your doctor an idea of whether you are under or over weight. Your doctor can then make suggestions that will help you maintain a healthy weight or inspire you to lose weight so you feel your best.
- Cholesterol Screening – Your doctor should check your cholesterol to find out whether you have a healthy cholesterol level, or whether you need treatment to help reduce your cholesterol. Cholesterol levels are an important predictor of whether you are at risk for heart disease. By controlling cholesterol early in life, you decrease your risk of developing heart disease.
- Blood Pressure – If you have high blood pressure, then you are more at risk for heart-related problems. Make sure you talk to your doctor about high blood pressure, and find out what actions you can take to prevent your blood pressure from increasing your risk of unwanted heart disease.
- Diabetes – Ask your doctor to screen for diabetes especially if you have high blood pressure or other diseases that can increase your risk of heart disease. If you are overweight or have a high BMI for example, you may be more at risk for Type II diabetes. To control it, you may have to change your lifestyle from unhealthy to healthy.
Your doctor may recommend other tests to make sure you are healthy. There are many diseases that can contribute to your risk for heart disease. If you have concerns about your health or certain diseases, or have a family history of heart disease, ask your doctor about specialty tests that may predict your risk for cancer.
For example, you may find from a routine EKG that you have an abnormal heart rhythm that may require extra precautions to help prevent heart disease. You won’t know this however unless you ask your doctor about an EKG to find out whether you really need one.
Step 2: Make Sure You Cut Unwanted Items from Your Lifestyle
Are you a smoker? If so, you may increase your odds of heart disease substantially. If you are committed to living a healthy life then you will have to cut some habits to help support a long and healthy life.
If you smoke, quit. If you can’t quit, ask your doctor to help you. Today you can take patches, pills or chew gum in an effort to help you stop smoking. There are many nicotine withdrawal programs available to people that want to improve their overall health and wellness.
You might also want to reevaluate your intake of alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol all of the time may increase your risk of heart disease. Too much alcohol can lower your inhibitions, causing you to eat more than you would like. That means you may end up eating more greasy nachos or other fatty foods people normally associate with an evening of drinking.
Talk with your doctor about your alcohol consumption. Most doctors recommend no more than 2 portions of alcohol a few days a week. Make sure you ask your doctor for a recommendation first.
If you have a family history of heart disease, don’t forget to mention this to your doctor as they may recommend other lifestyle changes that will help improve your odds of a long and healthy life.
Step 3: Monitor Your Diet
Diet is an important predictor of overall health. You may be thin but still at risk for high cholesterol or heart disease if you do not care for your diet. Many people rely on fast food far too often to salvage their diet. You should make sure that you eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of green, leafy vegetables, lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats like polyunsaturated or essential fatty acids.
Some people are afraid to eat fat in any form; therefore they follow a low fat diet. However a low fat diet isn’t always the best diet, especially if you do not consume enough essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids may reduce your risk of heart disease.
You can get essential fatty acids, which contain Omega-3 nutrients, in foods like fatty salmon or flax seeds. Many people find they can sprinkle flax seed oil on their salads to increase this healthy form of essential fat into their diet.
If you aren’t sure how to modify your diet to incorporate more heart healthy foods, ask your doctor about it. He or she may refer you to a nutritionist that can help you reevaluate your diet and develop healthier eating habits.
Step 4: Exercise
Everyone knows you should exercise yet few people do. If you exercise regularly however, you can dramatically reduce your odds of developing heart disease. You don’t have to run a marathon to do it either.
All you really need to do I take a vigorous walk, if you can, daily. It is important to keep your heart in good health. Exercise in any form helps improve your heart’s ability to efficiently pump blood and provide your body with the power it needs to continue each day.
Make sure you take time to assess your schedule and plan for short exercise sessions. If you take two 10 minute breaks each day at work for example, you can increase your heart health significantly. It doesn’t matter if you have to break up your exercise sessions into frequent but small sessions, as long as you can exercise.
If you can join an exercise class that you find vigorous and exciting, then do so. Sometimes all you need to do to become more motivated is find an exercise program that is diverse and interesting, and one that suits your individual preferences. For example, one person may prefer to engage in group activities like a soccer club, while another may prefer boxing or a vigorous yoga class. No matter your preference, look for classes and programs that will motivate you to excel and “be” all you want to be.
Step 5: Follow Your Doctor’s Advice
If you require medicines to lower your cholesterol, then don’t think twice about taking them. There is probably a good reason your doctor prescribed medications in the first place. Interestingly, even though a doctor recommends change, many people resist change, especially if it requires them to follow a given protocol for an undefined period.
Many people are dismayed at the thought they might need to take heart medications for the rest of their lives. However, the truth is heart disease doesn’t always require medical intervention. And, even if it does, usually it isn’t very difficult to incorporate these changes into you life. Now, while some people will not have to take medication, you can’t deny that some people are more at risk than others for heart attacks.
For example, some people have and will always have high cholesterol without proper intervention. Cholesterol is one of those little things in life that is difficulty to control. If you have high cholesterol, there are no guarantees that diet and exercise alone will help lower your cholesterol.
Some people are pre-disposed to high cholesterol and may need to take small amounts of cholesterol-lowering medication. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about side effects. Your doctor can help you understand why certain medications are or are not recommended.
Know that your doctor will work with you to help you overcome heart disease in the best way possible. You can ask your doctor whether you need to take medications that may prevent heart disease. Often for people over age 45, especially those who have a family history of heart disease or have high cholesterol or other conditions that predispose them to disease, a doctor will recommend you take steps to prevent heart disease. This may include taking a baby aspirin once each day to prevent your odds of developing heart disease.
Your doctor may suggest you also get regularly immunizations or flu immunizations to bolster your health so you are less likely to develop an illness that may lead to heart disease. Make sure you ask your doctor about other steps you can take to help prevent heart disease.
Heart disease is a leading killer. However, if you take time out to follow the 5 steps outlined above, you can dramatically improve your chances of beating heart disease. Don’t let heart disease take over your life. Take back your health and live the life you’ve always dreamed. And don’t delay, because each day wasted is a day your body may become more at risk for heart disease.
Remember, in the end, your heart will be healthy only if you take action to love and protect your heart from disease or unwanted attacks. Having knowledge is good – helping your heart is even better.