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10 Things To Do To Keep Your Heart Happy

Your heart is undoubtedly one of the most important organs in your body. In addition to a special day called Valentines, I would like to bring awareness to why we should keep our hearts healthy. According to the CDC, “About 697,000 people in the United States died from heart disease in 2020– that’s 1 in every 5 deaths”. We cannot control genetics, but we can control other modifiable factors. Let’s look into them together:

  1. Get Active: 45 minutes a day for 5 days out of the week. At minimum, I encourage you to consider speed walking around your neighborhood. For example, if one whole lap is about 10 minutes walking, the next lap should take 9 minutes and 45 seconds. Try to shed 15-20 seconds from your previous lap. Be consistent for 45 minutes total. 
  2. Stop Smoking: There are multiple patches, lozenges, and gums over the counter that could help you quit smoking. Smoking affects the flow of your veins and arteries. Additionally, it increases your risk for heart failure and lung cancer. There are medications that could be prescribed to help with your nicotine cravings. 
  3. Know Your Values: Please go see your primary care physician to get blood tests done. These lab “values” will help you to understand your health and get on to the right health plans with your physician. Cholesterol, sugars, kidney, liver and electrolytes are typically screened during annual wellness visits. 
  4. Refill Your Prescriptions: Follow up with your physician on necessary medications. It is important to always schedule the next follow up appointment to prevent refill delays. Your body can change for the better or worse within 6 months, and so many of these follow ups and labs help us to monitor your body’s progress. 
  5. Limit Unhealthy Food Intake: Yes, I too love to eat “junk” food at times. However, moderation is the key. I often look at my shopping cart at the groceries to see what I have. If they are processed (frozen food/prepackaged/canned), alcohol, or have a lot of sugar/salt content, I only allow 1 small-medium sized item per week. The bulk of the shopping cart is with protein, cooking spice, some carbs, and veggies/fruits. I urge patient’s to come face to face with what they are buying by saving receipts, then highlight the unhealthy foods and calculate $$$ spent. This may help you better recognize unhealthy foods and save money too!
  6. Prepping Foods Under a Time Budget: Common reasons why patients eat fast food or go out to eat may be, “I have no time after work” or “I have young kids who have an awesome metabolism and eat a lot of fried foods”. Convenience is often the motivating factor. Eating out takes approximately the same amount of time (waiting to be seated, waiting to order, preparation of the meal, waiting for the server to bring your food…etc), but while the cost out of pocket may be more, it saves you the work/cleaning. However, what if cooking smarter could be your answer? There are multiple appliances that can help decrease your time “standing in front of your stove” such as your: oven, airfryer, conventional oven, crock pot, and my favorite, the Instapot. Each of these appliances will reduce your time spent in the kitchen while helping you create a delicious, healthy meal. 
  7. Sleep Better: Many patients state that they experience trouble sleeping. There are a lot of physical obstacles (pets in the bed, partners snoring…etc), mental obstacles (anxiety, PTSD … etc), health obstacles (waking up to urinate, coughing etc.. ), and unhealthy routines (caffeine intake, playing with your phones …etc) that contribute to this issue. The bedroom is recommended only for sleep. Try shutting off  the lights, putting your phone away, sleeping in a cool and comfortable bed, limiting electronics in the bedroom, and having no caffeine after 4pm. If you still have problems falling asleep, consider setting up an appointment with your doctor. 
  8. Mental Check: Anxiety and depression can cause cardiac symptoms as well. Life happens and a lot of times we are caught in the middle of an impossible situation. We carry the mental anguish on our shoulders and minds. This could cause chest tightness and discomfort when the emotions arise. Your blood pressure could be a sign. If you are experiencing this, please talk with your physician about treatment options. 
  9. Drink More Water: Clear water is a basic need of all forms of life. It helps us to stay hydrated and flush out toxins. It is recommended that healthy males drink 3L of water/day and healthy females drink 2L of water/day. 
  10. Family Genetics: If you can, ask your loved ones about their medical history (especially parents and siblings). There is no easy way to broach this. However, getting to know your family’s health will help your physician guide you on appropriate preventative screenings.

What to know about High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

What is blood pressure? 

Blood pressure is the pressure of blood “pushing against the walls of your arteries”. As blood rushes from your heart to other organs, it helps to replenish nutrients and transport oxygen. Too low of a blood pressure could be fatal for these organs and on the flip side, too high of a blood pressure is also fatal. This reading may fluctuate throughout the day.
There are two numbers: -The “top” number is the systolic number. It measures the pressure of the arteries when your heart is beating. -The “bottom” number is the diastolic number. It measures the pressure of the arteries when your heart is relaxing. 
Uncontrolled, elevated blood pressure is known as Hypertension. Longstanding hypertension affects your heart and can cause other health problems. 

What is my goal? 

There are a few guidelines that physicians tend to follow and these are the Cardiology/American Heart Association (C/AHA) and the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood pressure. Depending on your personal medical history and open discussion with your physician, this will guide your treatment plan. 
The Cardiology/AHA 2017 defines hypertension as systolic of 130 mmHg and higher or diastolic of 80 mmHg and higher. The Joint National Committee 2003 defines hypertension as systolic of 140 mmHg and higher or diastolic 90 mmHg and higher. 

What are some signs and symptoms of Hypertension? 

Many patients do not recognize elevated blood pressure as it can be subtle such as intermittent vision change or headaches. Some patient’s remain asymptomatic and are made aware at dental offices or when they use the blood pressure machines at the local grocery store. 

What are some of the complications from having hypertension? 

Some common complications are: 

  • Stiffening of the blood vessels due to being under constant pressure
  • Kidney damage
  • Heart Attack-Stroke

What can you do to prevent this from progressing? 

  • Speak to your healthcare provider 
  • Moderate Exercise/Physical activity for 45 minutes daily for 5 days out of the week
  • Not smoking
  • Limiting salt and processed/packaged foods intake
  • Managing stress
  • Consider following the DASH diet or Mediterranean diet

Despite some of these positive lifestyle changes, some patient’s blood pressure remain elevated. At that time, you may need to start to incorporate blood pressure medications.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please talk with your primary care provider at your next appointment. 

Dr. Hannah Do


Family Medicine Physician