February is American Heart Month, and Olmsted Medical Center wants to share this great list of ways to help keep your heart healthy, as well with other important pieces of information from the American Heart Association.

At what age should people start “worrying” about heart disease?
Heart disease screening is an important part of managing heart disease. Individuals with a significant family history of heart disease in their immediate family should discuss early screening with their healthcare provider. The age at which screening for heart disease will start, will depend on the individual. In addition, it is important for everyone to “Know your Numbers”; be aware of what your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, BMI, and risk factors are, and do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

What are the top 5 things we can all do to improve the health of our heart?

  1. Exercise — minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise. Individuals with Diabetes benefit from daily exercise to control blood sugar levels.
  2. Know your Numbers — know your cholesterol levels, blood pressure trends, BMI, and risk factors for heart disease.
  3. Follow a heart-healthy diet — low sodium ( less than 2,000 mg), low cholesterol, consume in moderation.
  4. Limit caffeine/alcohol — Individuals should avoid caffeine and alcohol consumption. If you should consume, limit to <1 drink/day (12oz beer = 1 drink).
  5. Sleep — Getting good sleep will help reduce the negative effects that stress has on our bodies. Individuals should get a minimum of 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per day.

Who is at more risk for heart disease, men or women?

Generally, both have the same risk factors for heart disease, a person’s risk will depend on how many risk factors one individual has. According to a research article in the Netherlands Heart Journal, cardiovascular disease develops 7-10 years later in women than in men. Heart Disease is still the #1 cause of death in women 65 years of age or older. Research has connected the natural decrease in estrogen during menopause in women under 50 years of age may increase risk of heart disease. Natural withdrawal of estrogen decreases the HDL (good cholesterol) levels in the blood stream and increases LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.

The American Heart Association (AHA) still does not advise hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to reduce risk. Women should discuss with their healthcare provider to decide what options are best for them.

How important is exercise for keeping your heart healthy?

Exercise is an important component to managing and preventing heart disease. Current recommendation is 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous intensity exercise. According to research, when paired with moderate intensity exercise, interval training (brief episodes of higher intensity exercise) has also been proven to improve heart function either before or after a heart event.

Does smoking or using tobacco hurt my heart?

People who smoke are at an increased risk of a heart attack. Smoking accelerates the progression of atherosclerosis (the build-up of plaque in the arteries) by damaging the lining of the arteries. People who smoke are also at an increased risk for Peripheral Artery Disease (narrowing of the arteries carrying blood to the rest of our body). Nonsmokers who are ex-posed to secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25 to 30 percent. If you smoke, quitting will greatly reduce your risk.
Source: American Heart Association