We should all be monitoring our heart health and taking daily steps to protect ourselves from heart problems. But do you know how closely you should be paying attention to your heart and whether you need more in-depth monitoring?
Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for men and women in the United States, but it's not just heart disease you need to watch for. Artery disease, infections, and blood clots can also occur when you neglect your health. Your answers to the following questions can help you decide if it's time to check up on your heart.
1. Has Anyone in Your Family Had Heart Disease, Stroke, Diabetes, or a Heart Attack?
Heart disease and its risk factors may be partly related to genes, so if your parents or grandparents have had cardiovascular problems or suffered a stroke or heart attack, you may need to take extra steps to manage your heart health.
2. How Often Do You Exercise?
The American Heart Association recommends exercising for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week to keep your heart in top shape. Exercise can be broken down into 10-minute blocks and can be as simple as a brisk walk. Moving more is key to improved overall cardiovascular health.
3. Do You Know Your Cholesterol and Blood Pressure Numbers?
High cholesterol and high blood pressure increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart failure, along with other vascular problems. Diet and medications can help keep these numbers in check.
4. Do You Smoke or Live With a Smoker?
Smoking harms the heart and blood vessels. It increases your risk of heart disease and other problems such as atherosclerosis, a condition that leads to clogged arteries. Regularly inhaling secondhand smoke can also damage your heart and blood vessels.
5. How Many Alcoholic Drinks Do You Have Every Day or Week?
Too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure and triglycerides, a type of cholesterol. Women should limit themselves to one drink per day, and men should limit themselves to two drinks per day.
6. Do You Have Diabetes or Prediabetes?
Poorly managed diabetes leads to high blood glucose, which damages blood vessels, along with the nerves that control your heart and blood vessels. Over time, this damage raises your risk of heart disease and stroke. Catching diabetes early and keeping it under control helps prevent further damage to your body.
7. How Many Fruits and Vegetables Do You Eat Every Day?
What you eat affects your whole body and your heart health. In addition to eating fruits and vegetables daily, eat lean meats, whole grains, and healthy unsaturated fats. An easy way to include variety in your diet is to aim for plant-based meals that feature many different colors on your plate. An easy way to remember proper ratios is to fill half your plate with vegetables, one-quarter with whole grains, and one-quarter with lean protein. You can also include a drizzle of healthy fat.
8. What Are Your BMI and Waist Circumference?
Being overweight or obese raises your risk of heart disease and many of the risk factors for heart troubles. Body mass index (BMI) is a simplistic ratio of height to weight, and while it's a decent starting point, it may not accurately predict risk for all people. Adding in waist circumference along with BMI is a better measurement of risk. Women with a waist circumference of more than 35 inches and men of more than 40 inches are at higher risk of heart problems.
9. When Was the Last Time You Went to the Dentist?
Your dental health is related to your overall health. Bacteria in your mouth can travel to other parts of the body, causing many problems and worsening chronic conditions. Keeping your mouth clean and free of gingivitis or gum disease will help keep the rest of your body healthy. If you haven't had a cleaning in a while, it may be time to check in with your dentist.
Lifestyle modifications and managing existing conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes are vital if you want to prevent heart problems. It's important to monitor your risks at any age, but the younger you start, the better. That way, you can stay ahead of any possible problems. If you're worried that you may be at higher risk, visit your primary care provider or have a heart screening to get your numbers checked.