LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 10, 2014) -- Heart Month is upon us, and with it comes a dismal reminder that Kentucky is one of the least healthy states in the country. According to the American Heart Association, Kentucky ranks 44th out of 50 in the number of deaths caused by heart attack and other cardiovascular disease (diseases of the heart and circulatory system).
Over the past 50 years or so, new and improved medical treatments for heart disease have contributed to an overall reduction in the number of Americans who suffer a heart attack. But we have also seen a rise in the number of people who have taken more responsibility for their health status, which contributes significantly to lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease.
What does this mean? Cardiovascular disease is preventable in many cases if you are willing to commit to a heart-healthy lifestyle. If you want to reduce your risk of heart disease, here are seven simple suggestions:
Get Active: The lack of physical activity can add weight and damage your heart. Brisk walking is a good way to get active.
Control Cholesterol: Too much cholesterol in the blood can clog arteries and contribute to blockages that may lead to a heart attack or stroke. Physical activity, a proper diet and prescribed medication are all ways to manage your cholesterol.
Eat Better: It’s important to eat lots of nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables and fish while avoiding foods high in fat and salt.
Manage Blood Pressure: High blood pressure is sometimes called “the silent killer” because it has no symptoms. Hypertension can damage arteries and scar tissue can capture plaque, which can create a clot.
Lose Weight: Being obese or overweight puts people at an elevated risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
Reduce Blood Sugar: High blood sugar raises your risk for diabetes, and diabetes raises your risk for heart disease and stroke. Those who have diabetes should work closely with their doctors to manage it.
Stop Smoking: Smoking raises the risk for atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty substances in the arteries. It also decreases the ability to perform physical activities, and it increases the tendency for the blood to clot.
The American Heart Association offers a free online tool to help individuals assess their own risk and find ways to improve heart health. To take this 10-minute "My Life Heart Score" quiz and learn more about ways to improve your cardiovascular health, visit www.heart.org/mylifecheck. Your doctor can also be an important resource to assess your overall health and help you find ways to lower your risk of heart disease.
Dr. Ted Wright is a cardiovascular surgeon at the Gill Heart Institute at the University of Kentucky and the President of the Central Kentucky chapter of the American Heart Association.
This column appeared in the February 2, 2014, Edition of the Lexington Herald-Leader