Heart failure is a serious condition in which the heart muscle can no longer pump an adequate amount of blood and oxygen to the rest of the body.
While heart failure does not mean the heart has stopped beating, it does have serious implications for a person’s health. Doctors will usually prescribe medication and strongly recommend lifestyle changes to help a patient live as long as possible. In some cases, a heart transplant may be recommended.
To keep your heart healthy, Uzma Iqbal, MD, a cardiologist with Sands-Constellation Center for Critical Care, has some ideas about healthy decisions you can make each day:
The phrase ‘everything in moderation’ has a lot of truth behind it. If you have a diet that is heavy in fat, cholesterol, and sodium, you will need to significantly cut back on your consumption.
Focusing on eating less meats, and more fruits, and vegetables is a good place to start.
Excessive alcohol consumption can also increase your risk of heart failure. The CDC recommends not having more than two drinks each day for men, and no more than one drink each day for women.
Tobacco users who smoke consistently repeatedly raise their risk of heart failure and other heart-related conditions. Smoking allows more plaque to build up along the walls of the arteries. Over time, plaque hardens and narrows the walls of the arteries, which makes them more likely to experience a blockage.
Smoking cigarettes causes approximately one in five deaths each year in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health.
“The sooner you quit, the sooner your risk of heart disease or heart failure begins to decrease,” Dr. Iqbal said.
A person’s weight is one of many different factors when considering their overall health. Two people can weigh the exact same amount and have drastically different health conditions.
Obesity is often considered a risk because it can go hand in hand with other health problems that are linked to heart failure.
“In some cases, people who are obese may also have diabetes or high blood pressure,” Dr. Iqbal said. “Those can be big contributing factors to a higher risk of heart failure.”
Having a conversation with your primary care provider and heart doctor can be a good start in determining how you can begin working toward a healthy weight.
Exercise is one of the most common recommendations when it comes to improving a person’s health. Getting 30-60 minutes of exercise each day is a good goal to set and can have plenty of benefits.
As you exercise on a more regular basis, the muscles in your heart strengthen and help to improve your circulation. It can help to lower your blood pressure and reduce the risk of obesity.
“You don’t need to jump in and start training for a marathon,” Dr. Iqbal said. “Start small and work your way up to what works for you.”
There are more ways than just sports to get in that 30-60 minutes of staying active. Walking your dog, working in a garden, dancing, hiking, and cleaning are just a few ways to work toward that goal.
Several things can put you at a higher risk of heart failure. Some may not be within your control because they are hereditary. Others can be lessened with medication or lifestyle changes. Those include:
Stress can affect your mental and physical health. That is the case in both positive and negative life events. Buying a new home, getting married, and having a child are typically happy events – but can also induce stress.
How you handle that stress can affect your body – including your heart. Making poor eating choices and cutting back on exercise can increase the risk of obesity and high blood pressure. That, in turn, can increase the risk of heart failure.
Finding coping strategies for stress is important. Seeking out a therapist or counselor could be a good idea for you. Other people deal with stress with different practices, including:
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