Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, and in Louisiana, there are 323 cardiovascular deaths per year for every 100,000 residents. The state’s current ranking as 46th in the nation in heart disease rates has prompted one local health plan to spend the month of February promoting a heart-healthy lifestyle for American Heart Month.
“Heart disease is largely preventable when people make healthy lifestyle choices and take a proactive role in managing their health conditions,” noted Stewart Gordon, MD, Chief Medical Officer for Louisiana Healthcare Connections. “American Heart Month represents a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness about heart disease and how we can prevent it, both in our own homes and in the communities where we live and work.”
While some heart disease risk factors – like age and family medical history – cannot be controlled, many others can, explained Gordon. “By making changes in your lifestyle to eliminate these controllable factors, you can significantly reduce your risk for heart disease.”
Controllable risk factors for heart disease include:
- Smoking. “Smoking is one of the most preventable causes of heart disease. Quitting smoking reduces this risk by as much as 50 percent,” Gordon said.
- High cholesterol. “A healthy diet, regular exercise and when appropriate, medication, may help to reduce cholesterol. Your physician can perform a screening to determine your cholesterol levels and help you make healthy decisions to keep your levels within acceptable ranges,” Gordon explained.
- Uncontrolled blood pressure. “When high blood pressure, or hypertension, is not controlled, it can cause complications like a heart attack or stroke. Getting regular blood pressure screenings from your doctor, taking medications as prescribed and making healthy lifestyle changes are necessary to control your blood pressure,” said Gordon.
- Low physical activity. “Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week. Your doctor can help you determine what kinds of activities are most appropriate for you based on your current health and mobility,” Gordon noted.
- Uncontrolled diabetes. “Diabetes is a treatable condition, but when it is not treated or monitored, it can significantly increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. Work closely with your healthcare provider to ensure that your diabetes is controlled,” said Gordon.
- Unhealthy diet. “By increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables and reducing your intake of sugars, saturated fats and processed foods, you can drastically reduce your risk for heart disease. Talk to your doctor to make sure you’re making the best decisions about your diet,” Gordon said.
“The most important step you can take to be heart healthy is partnering with your doctor to ensure that you’re making the best decisions for your health. I encourage you to use American Heart Month as an opportunity to schedule a wellness visit and discuss appropriate health screenings and lifestyle choices with your physician,” said Gordon.
To learn more about American Heart Month and find more tips for heart health, please visit the American Heart Association website at www.heart.org.