RENO — Each year, communities nationwide observe the importance of heart health and ways to reduce the risk of heart disease. In honor of American Heart Month, Dr. Steven Herrmann, medical director of cardiology at Saint Mary’s Medical Group, recommends the ABCDE’S method to maintain a healthy heart.
• Aspirin: Taking a daily dose of aspirin, between 81 and 162 mg, reduces blood clot formation, decreases pain and reduces one’s chance of a first heart attack. In patients who have already had a heart attack, aspirin is a key part of therapy to reduce future events.
• Blood pressure: Blood pressure is often referred to as the “silent killer” because there are few symptoms related to blood pressure alone. However, elevated blood pressure is an important risk factor for stroke, heart attack, chronic kidney disease, vascular disease and congestive heart failure. Optimal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg and levels greater than 140/90 mmHg is concerning and should always be discussed with your physician. It is important to monitor your levels at home and to practice common sense management, including diet, exercise and weight loss.
• Cholesterol: It is important to know all of your cholesterol numbers and to address both the bad cholesterol (LDL forms blockages in your arteries) as well as the good cholesterol (HDL prevents heart attacks) with your physician. The key to managing cholesterol is a conscious effort of diet, exercise and weight loss. It is important to reduce saturated or animal-based fats, as well as increasing your unsaturated or plant-based fats. Additionally, increase the fiber in your diet through judicious intake of fruits and vegetables. Some patients, especially those with hypertension and diabetes, benefit from medications to reduce their bad cholesterol or raise their good cholesterol.
• Diet: Your diet is a key component to managing your blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol and weight. Eating a well-balanced diet that includes a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables will keep you healthy and feeling energized. It is recommended to eat foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber. Also, limit the amount of sodium in your diet to 2,300 mg per day in a healthy adult and 1,500 mg per day if you are 51 or older or are at risk for developing heart disease. For heart-healthy recipes and ideas, visit the American Heart Association’s website at www.heart.org.
• Exercise: Exercise reduces your blood pressure and cholesterol, improves your blood sugar levels and in general makes you feel better. We recommend walking, swimming, bicycling or aerobics, which are all great options for a healthy heart. Optimally, exercising at an aerobic heart rate for 35-45 minutes a day most days of the week will dramatically reduce your risk of heart disease, help you lose weight and improve your other risk factors. Getting your waist below 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men will dramatically reduce your chances of developing a chronic disease.
• Smoking: Of all potential risk factors, nicotine abuse is one of the worst. Smoking increases the risk of heart attack six-fold for women and three-fold for men. Working with your physician to “kick your butts” is perhaps the best gift you can give yourself and family and has tremendous health benefits, including decreasing your chance of developing heart disease.
In all of these areas, consult your physician before implementing any kind of regimen.
For more information, visit www.saintmarysreno.org.