The next four minutes could add years to your life. That’s how long it will take you to read this article and discover four essentials for taking care of your heart.

Gonzales Healthcare can guide you towards healthier living through lifestyle assessment, coaching, and recommending appropriate tests or treatments suitable to your specific needs. We are also happy to help with referrals when necessary.

Live Heart Healthy

Don’t Smoke: Not smoking may be the best thing you can do to improve both your heart health and your overall health. The results can be dramatic. After a year of not smoking cigarettes, the risk of heart disease is cut in half.

Get Moving: Regular physical exercise is so beneficial for your health. It reduces the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes and stroke. It can also help you lose weight. Aim for 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise, such as walking, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise, such as jogging. And remember, even activities like housekeeping or taking the stairs are good for you.

Eat Heart Smart: Avoid salt, sugar, alcohol, saturated fats (red meat, full-fat dairy) and trans fats (fried fast food, chips and baked goods). Instead, load up your plate with vegetables, fruits, beans, lean meat and fish, and whole grains.

Watch Your Pounds: Losing just a little weight really helps your heart. Reducing your weight by as little as three percent (just six pounds if you weigh 200) can reduce certain fats in the blood as well as the risk of diabetes. Ask your primary care provider to check your Body Mass Index (BMI) to see if you are overweight or obese. Ideally, your BMI should be less than 25.

Manage Your Stress: Feeling stressed can lead to many unhealthy habits, such as smoking, drinking or overeating. Regular physical activity as well as relaxing activities such as yoga can lower your stress level.

Know the Signs of a Heart Attack

Chest Pain or Discomfort: With most heart attacks, people experience uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, or pain in the center of the chest. The sensation may last more than a few minutes, or it may go away and then return.

Discomfort in the Upper Body: Pain or discomfort can also occur in the neck, back, both arms or stomach.

Shortness of Breath: This can occur with or without chest pain.

Other Signs of a Heart Attack: These include nausea, feeling lightheaded and breaking out in a cold sweat. In addition to chest pain, women are more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and back or neck pain.

Ask About Testing Options

Your primary care provider can choose from a long list of diagnostic tools to determine if you have heart disease.*

Electrocardiogram (ECG): An ECG test your heart’s electrical impulses. It’s often used to check for an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia).

Exercise Stress Test: This is a type of ECG test that is usually performed when running on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike. The test checks your heart rate, blood pressure and heart activity to see how it performs under physical exertion.

Echocardiogram (Ultrasound): This non-invasive test uses high-frequency sound waves to check the heart’s structure and to evaluate its blood flow. It’s often used to check your heart’s valve and chambers as well as the efficiency of your heart in pumping blood.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): An MRI uses powerful magnets and radio waves to produce hundreds of high-resolution images of the heart from many different perspectives. Sometimes a special dye is injected into the arteries to make the heart and its vessels easier to see.

CT Scan: This X-ray imaging technique produces cross-sectional images of your heart to check its structure and determine if there are blockages in the coronary arteries.

Cardiac Catheterization: Also known as a coronary angiogram, this specialized X-ray test can reveal how much your coronary arteries are clogged or blocked. A small tube (catheter) is inserted into an artery in your groin or wrist and then moves up inside the artery until it reaches your heart. After a special dye has been injected, X-rays are taken.

Holter Monitoring: This test uses a small, portable machine to record a patient’s heart rhythms over an extended period of time, usually from 24 to 48 hours. The test analyzes the electrical activity of the heart and can detect heart rhythm problems that come and go and may not be apparent using a standard ECG.

After a Heart Attack or Stroke, Participate in Rehab

Cardiac rehabilitation is a structured, supervised exercise and education program for people who have had bypass surgery, angioplasty, heart failure or other major heart conditions.*

The benefits of cardiac rehab are many. One study found that patients who completed a cardiac rehab program lowered their risk of death by 47 percent and their risk of having another heart attack by 31 percent. Unfortunately, only one in four people who are eligible for cardiac rehab participate in the program. The program usually lasts about three months and involves exercise training, emotional support and education about how to reduce the risk of heart disease. For stroke rehab, the long-term goal is to help the stroke survivor become as independent as possible. Studies show that up to 85 percent of patients will learn to walk independently after six months of rehabilitation.

Sources: American Heart Association, Million Hearts

*The content of this article is informative and does not necessarily reflect available services at Gonzales Healthcare. Ask us how we can help!