Simple Changes for a Healthy Heart

Heart Health

Heart disease is the number one killer for both men and women in the United States, but is also one of the most preventable health issues. Scott Shurmur, M.D., says simple daily habits can help promote greater heart health.

His first tip? Get moving. He says, "150 minutes of walking every week can benefit individuals both metabolically in terms of preventing diabetes and improving cholesterol, but also in smoothing out blood pressure and helping in weight management." Resistance training also shows increasing benefits.

Managing a healthy diet is also essential to promoting heart health. Foods high in saturated fat can leads to premature coronary heart disease death. Dr. Shurmur encourages individuals to develop an eating plan that limits foods with red beef, full-fat dairy products, and high processed, sugary foods. Diets with nutrient dense, rich foods such as fish, vegetables, and other natural foods are encouraged.

A lifelong plan of heart health is best, so individuals should start early. Many people wait for something to go wrong with their body before taking care of their health, but the key is to know your body and what you can do before an event happens. 

Understand your Risks 

If you have or do any of the following, you may be at risk for heart disease:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar or diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Use tobacco
  • Family history of heart disease

Develop Simple Habits of Prevention 

Follow these steps to be proactive about your health:

  • If you take medications, take them regularly. Don't skip days.
  • Eat healthy
  • Exercise regularly
  • Don't smoke or use other tobacco
  • If you drink, do so only in moderation
  • Manage weight 
  • See your physician annually

Look for Warning Signs: 

 Heart disease symptoms include:

  • Chest discomfort or pressure
  • Chest tightness
  • Neck pain
  • Jaw pain
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Inability to exercise
  • Excessive sweating
  • Numbness in legs or arms

Symptoms can be different in men and women. If you have a pre-existing condition like diabetes, heart disease symptoms can vary. When every day activities become difficult and you find find it hard to do regular tasks, consult your physician. 

Scott Shurmur is the Cardiology Division Chief and Interim Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine. 

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