The cardiovascular system includes the arteries, heart, and veins, and governs the health of the whole body. The key to maintaining cardiovascular health is to know your personal risks, and take preventative measures toward complications related to heart disease. Complications include atrial fibrillation, stroke, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and at the lower end of the spectrum, elevated blood pressure and varicose vein problems, just to name a few.
To begin with, don’t smoke. If you do, seek help from your family Physician and develop a plan to quit. More deaths are related to heart disease from smoking than any other disease. Even casual smoking takes a toll on the cardiovascular system. Medications, nicotine patches, and inhalers, combined with smoking cessation groups and in some cases cognitive behavior therapy programs, can help lower your risk of heart disease and increase overall health.
While accepted in the medical community that a glass of red wine is good for your heart, excessive hard drinking can lead to a racing heart, heart attacks and even death.
Risk factors to cardiovascular health involve being male, being a senior over the age of sixty-five, and being in certain ethnic groups including African-Americans, American-Indians, and Mexican-Americans. A family history of heart disease needs to be shared with a family physician, who can further assess risks and set-up medical screenings. Post-menopausal women are also at risk from heart disease due to lower estrogen levels, and may need to seek hormone replacement therapy to maintain cardiovascular health.
Cholesterol and diet play key roles in heart health. Cholesterol is made by the liver, and a health goal is to have a slightly higher HDL and a slightly lower LDL level. Choosing sea salt over table salt, and adopting a diet low in the deadly trans-fats and saturated fats, can help reduce bad cholesterol that can clog veins and arteries. Healthy oils can be used sparingly, and include canola, coconut, olive and peanut. Increasing fish consumption while lowering the consumption of meats, especially organ meats, and adding whole-grains and beans to dietary plans can help maintain healthy weight levels essential to maintaining cardiovascular health.
Cardio or aerobic exercise, that targets the major muscle groups, should be undertaken for thirty to forty minutes a day, four to five times a week. Sedentary people can begin at a slower pace of twenty minutes and gradually build themselves up. Walking, dancing, bicycling, swimming and skating all increase lung capacity, and assist the arteries in taking debris away from the heart and preventing arteries from becoming clogged. Walking ten thousand steps a day can easily be achieved through any combination of exercise routines, with the use of a pedometer.
Stress plays havoc with heart health. Unresolved emotional crises and anger issues play havoc with the immune system, and if left untreated can contribute to heart attacks. Learning to meditate, using guided imagery, or simply learning to relax at the end of each day, can bring heart levels to a normal rate.
Maintaining cardiovascular health takes a life time of planning and commitment. Understanding risk factors, developing a healthy eating and exercise plan and making a commitment to reduce stress, all play a role in heart health.
Cardiovascular diseases can lead to premature death if left unchecked. Parkway Heart and Vascular Centre provides risk screening for cardiovascular disease.