How to Stay Heart Healthy
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5 Daily Tips for Your Heart
What can you do to keep your heart strong? Our cardiology specialists have excellent advice for you. Timothy Shanahan, DO, cardiologist with UM Shore Medical Group – Cardiology and medical director of UM Shore Medical Group, along with interventional cardiologist Gabriel Sardi, MD, recommend five heart-healthy practices to incorporate into your daily activities.
“Encouraging our community to live a heart-healthy lifestyle is the essence of what we do," says Dr. Shanahan. "We strive to find the cure to heart disease, but until then, our health care team is here to provide both preventive and acute cardiac care so our community can live a high-quality life on the beautiful Eastern Shore of Maryland.”
Eat a Healthy Diet — Avoid Trans Fat
You need fats in your diet, including saturated, polyunsaturated and unsaturated fats. One fat you don’t need is trans fat because it increases your risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke. Trans fat clogs your arteries by raising your bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and lowering your good cholesterol levels (HDL). Cutting them from your diet helps you improve the blood flow throughout your body.
Trans fats often are used in packaged baked goods, snack foods, margarine and fried fast foods to add flavor and texture. Avoid these foods and try to incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet. Eat lean meats and fish while limiting carbohydrates and red meat.
Read the labels on all foods. Know the ingredients and treat your body like a temple when it comes to food. Everything you put into your body fuels you in a different way. Give your body the best nutrition you can to keep it running optimally.
Practice Good Dental Hygiene
Dental health is a good indication of overall health, including your heart health. However, brushing twice a day is not enough. You also need to floss daily because gum disease can be a sign of risk factors for heart disease. Studies show that the bacteria that contributes to gum disease can move into the bloodstream and cause an elevation in C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation in the blood vessels. These changes may increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Make Sleep a Priority
Sleep is an essential part of keeping your heart healthy and your body running efficiently. If you don’t get enough sleep or have poor sleep habits, you may be at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, no matter how healthy or young you are.
For best health, get 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. You may need to work up to this amount, going to bed a little earlier each night.
You also want to make sure your room is set up for optimal sleep conditions. Keep the television out of the bedroom and limit your screen time — including cell phone, tablet and laptop — at least one hour before bed.
If you have sleep apnea or other sleep-related conditions, you should seek the medical advice of your primary care physician, who may refer you to a sleep specialist. These sleep conditions have been linked to heart disease and arrhythmia.
Get Up and Move!
Staying seated for long periods of time, whether you work at a desk or simply lead a sedentary lifestyle, damages your health. While exercise is essential, so is making sure your body is moving throughout the day.
- Take routine breaks to go for short walks.
- Take the stairs when you are able.
- Park farther away from the office or the entrance of a store.
- Use a standing work station at your desk so you can move around easily.
“Stay active,” Dr. Sardi encourages. “Increase the level of your aerobic exercise, which can include walking, jogging, running, swimming, bicycling or rowing. Anything that gets your heart pumping. Establish a goal and start working toward reaching the ability to do aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes of your chosen aerobic activity, five times a week. It doesn’t take much — 30 minutes of brisk walking five times a week will be great for you.”
Stop Smoking and Avoid Secondhand Smoke
There is no way around it — smoking is extremely detrimental to your pulmonary and cardiovascular health. Whether it’s cigarettes or a vaping device, your lungs were not designed to ingest anything but air. And your heart can be taxed by nicotine.
Secondhand smoke is just as bad. Studies show that people exposed to secondhand smoke have about a 25 to 30 percent higher risk of developing heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, exposure to tobacco smoke contributes to approximately 34,000 premature heart disease deaths and 7,300 lung cancer deaths each year. Nonsmokers with preexisting high blood pressure or high cholesterol are affected even more by secondhand smoke.
Keeping children away from secondhand smoke is a no-brainer.
Your heart deserves this healthy treatment. “Follow these five health tips and you’ll be doing your heart and your loved ones a favor by ensuring that you live a healthier life for a long time to come," says Dr. Shahanan. "You’ll feel better and be able to stay active with a heart-healthy lifestyle."
Our cardiologists at UM SMG – Cardiology are part of the Heart and Vascular Center at UM Shore Regional Health.
To find a cardiologist or schedule an appointment, please call 410-822-5571.