5 ways to keep your heart healthy
By Dr. Arshad Safi, interventional cardiologist, Summit Health
There are many steps people can take to improve heart health: controlling cholesterol, eating well, managing blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight, controlling blood sugar and not smoking. It is important to discuss personal health and risk factors with a physician to develop a plan for maintaining health and lowering risks. Still, there are misconceptions. Below are five pieces of advice to help you stay heart-healthy:
• Understand what family history means to you: Although people with a family history of heart disease are at a higher risk for developing the disease, many patients don’t understand what that might mean for them. Some people assume if they have no family history, they are not at risk. Others fear they are doomed for heart disease because a relative had it. Every person can be at risk for heart disease, regardless of family history, and positive lifestyle behaviors can dramatically reduce that risk. Likewise, there are people who have a family history but have managed risk factors and are heart-healthy.
• Don’t try a quick fix: It is important to make healthful changes for many reasons, including reducing risk for heart disease, but making a change is not enough. You must maintain a healthy lifestyle. Individuals must consider long-term health and set long-term goals. We encourage patients to craft a lifestyle with healthy, sustainable choices. Fad diets are not a good solution because they tend to be too restrictive and can’t be maintained for a long period of time. It’s important to work with a doctor to find a feasible lifestyle that allows you to be healthy and happy.
• Don’t fear the doctor: The last thing a person should do is avoid going to a doctor because of fear. We are here to help you live the healthiest life possible. There are many factors we can help our patients control, and with proper management, we can reduce many of the risks for heart disease. Many people wait until they’ve had a heart attack or other serious health incident before they see us. Our goal is to work with you so those types of events never happen. We are not here to judge you, but to help you find a way to a healthier lifestyle.
• Know your numbers: People mistakenly believe there are always warning signs for heart disease, but high blood pressure is often called the “silent killer” because many people do not know they have it. The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to check your numbers regularly.
• Don’t assume you are healthy because you look healthy: Heart disease can affect people of any age, even those who eat right and maintain a healthy weight. Young and middle-aged people can develop heart problems. Know your numbers and go for regular checkups. I’ve treated patients who appear to be very healthy physically, but were very sick inside and had no idea. Be in charge of your health. It could save your life.