- Posted February 18, 2013 by
San Jose, California
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HERE’S TO A HEALTHIER HEART
In the past, the heart has been an object of fascination and credited with having various special powers. In the fourth century B.C., Aristotle identified it as the seat of intelligence, motion and sensation. Other ancients thought it was the central command center or the internal combustion engine that the rest of the body was dependent upon.
Nowadays, we know the four-chambered heart is the central part of the circulatory system that supplies the rest of the body with nourishment. The heart beats an average of 70 beats per minute, approximately 3 billion times in an average life span! Not bad for a muscle the size of your clenched fist. But like your car engine, to keep your heart running well for a lifetime, regular maintenance, checkups and good care are needed.
Lifestyle habits that anyone can adopt to maintain a healthy heart include:
1) Engaging in regular physical activity – the surgeon general recommends adults engage in moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
2) Eating a healthy diet – by avoiding saturated and trans-fats, excessive alcohol and sodium, and increasing fiber intake.
3) Maintaining a healthy weight
4) Refraining from smoking
Your primary care doctor should also be periodically checking cholesterol, LDL, and triglyceride levels and screening for diabetes and high blood pressure. These conditions can predispose one to dangerous plaque buildup, leading to blockages in the heart’s blood supply and eventually causing heart attacks.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for one in every four deaths. Every year about 935,000 Americans have a heart attack. The warning signs and symptoms of a possible heart attack may include: chest pain, upper body pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw or upper stomach; shortness of breath, nausea, light headedness, or cold sweats. Recognizing these signs and taking prompt action are important in minimizing the extent of injury during a heart attack. Taking aspirin and nitroglycerin early in the course of a heart attack are helpful. Those who have had a prior heart attack or who have a chronic medical condition, should consider wearing a medical alert bracelet or pendant.
For more information on heart health, check out the CardioSmart program offered by the American College of Cardiology at http://www.cardiosource.org/ACC.
(Dr. Wendy Tong is a medical director for CareMore Health Plan in San Jose.)