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5 Quick Ways to Help Your Heart Today

The average middle-aged adult has about a one in three chance of getting heart disease, alarming new research finds. But there's a silver lining: Control your risk factors right now, and you can delay its arrival by as long as 14 years, or prevent heart problems altogether.

"Many of the major risk factors for heart disease can be controlled by lifestyle choices, such as eating healthy, exercising regularly and quitting smoking. I call this Tender Loving Care (TLC) for the body", said Lourdes cardiologist Mario Maiese, DO, FACC, FACOI.

Start with these simple steps:

Stop sipping on sugar.
Drink just one less can of regular soda per day to reduce both the top and bottom numbers of your blood pressure. That's good news, since hypertension affects one in three adults in the United States—and it's one of the leading causes of heart attacks and strokes. Obviously, avoiding sugar helps keep your weight down.

Learn to love legumes.
Chickpeas, pintos, lentils—take your pick. People with type 2 diabetes who ate one cup of beans per day had better control of their blood sugar and reduced their heart disease risks, according to a recent study in Archives of Internal Medicine.

Fill up on fish.
Grill or bake fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and herring. People who eat fish two to four times per week are 20 percent less likely to die of heart disease and 6 percent less likely to have a stroke. That's compared with those who dine on seafood less than once weekly.

Nosh on nuts.
Almonds, pecans and pistachios do more than make good trail mix. They also reduce harmful blood fats when eaten instead of less-healthy foods. Eating 2.5 ounces of nuts per day (a little less than one-third of a cup) dropped both total and LDL (or "bad" cholesterol) levels after three to eight weeks, researchers report.

In addition, a study published in the February 25 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine found that people who adhered to a Mediterranean diet (which relies on fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, olives and olive oil, along with some cheese, yogurt, fish, poultry and wine) had a significantly reduced risk of heart attack and stroke compared to those who followed a simple low-fat diet.

Stand up.
Separate yourself from your office chair. Being sedentary more than doubles your risk for heart attacks and diabetes and increases your risk for cardiovascular death by 90 percent. Walk around your desk or office during phone calls and ask your company to have more casual days. Research shows employees burn more calories when they're not in business attire.

To keep a healthy weight and fight high blood pressure and cholesterol, make physical activity part of your routine. Try to fit in 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day.

"Unfortunately, many people at high risk for heart attack and stroke don't know it. That's why it is so important to get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly," said Dr. Maiese. "Speak with your healthcare professional about how you can improve your heart health."

Last reviewed: April 2013

Also in this issue:

Happenings

Lourdes Performing New TAVR Procedure
Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center is now performing transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) for patients with severe narrowing of the aortic valve and are unable or at too high-risk to undergo open-heart surgery. Inserted via a catheter, the new heart valve can improve the quality and length of a patient's life.
Click Here to Learn More.

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© Krames StayWell 2013.