If you want to live a long, active life (most of us do!), then you must understand the importance of heart health. Your heart beats about 100,000 times a day and powers your entire body. The better you take care of your heart, the better it will take care of you.
In this article, you’ll learn what doctors check for to see if a heart is in good shape, the signs of heart disease to watch for, and seven tips for keeping your heart healthy. We will also share some frequently asked questions about the importance of heart health.
Why is it so important to take care of our hearts?
Taking good care of our hearts is literally a matter of life or death. Heart disease is the number one cause of death worldwide. And nearly one in three deaths in the U.S. is caused by heart disease and stroke every year, according to the CDC.
Fortunately, with some healthy lifestyle changes, most types of heart disease are preventable.
How do I know if my heart is healthy?
Keeping your heart healthy can help you live longer and improve the quality of your years. By embracing the importance of heart health and taking an active role in your wellness, you will feel better and minimize your disease risk. But how can you tell if your heart is healthy or not?
To truly understand and monitor your heart health, it’s important to see your doctor regularly. Several factors they use to measure heart health include:
- Heart rate. Adults’ normal resting heart rate is between 60–100 beats per minute. When you’re active, your heart rate will increase. Stress, anxiety, and some medications can also affect your heart rate. You can check your heart rate by feeling your pulse on your wrist or neck and counting the beats for one minute.
- Heart rate recovery. Measuring the change in your heart rate after you stop working out can tell you a lot about your heart health. The faster your heart rate decreases after exercise, the stronger your heart. A doctor can do a stress test to evaluate your overall health and check for any signs of coronary distress.
- Blood pressure. Keeping your blood pressure in the normal range is vital for a healthy heart. A normal blood pressure reading is below 120/80 mm Hg. Check your blood pressure regularly and talk to your doctor if it’s high. There are medications and lifestyle changes that can lower your blood pressure.
- Energy and breathing. If you often feel tired or out of breath when doing light activities (like walking up the stairs), your heart may have difficulty pumping enough blood through your body. Be sure to tell your doctor if this is happening regularly.
- Cholesterol levels. People with high cholesterol are more likely to have heart disease and a higher heart attack risk. Your doctor can check your cholesterol levels with a simple blood test. A healthy total cholesterol level for adults is under 200 mg/dl. If you have high cholesterol, you can lower it with some healthy lifestyle changes.
Signs of heart disease
There are four categories of heart disease: heart valve problems, arrhythmia, heart attack, or stroke. The most common type of heart disease is called coronary artery disease, which affects blood flow to the heart.
While the symptoms of each heart condition vary, there are some common early warning signs for heart disease, including:
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Chest pain or “tightness” in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Extreme fatigue
- Unexplained pain in the upper torso, neck, and jaw
- Nausea and indigestion
- Swelling, numbness, or pain in hands or feet
- Severe pain in the legs or hips when walking
Most types of heart disease can be managed or prevented with healthy lifestyle choices and medical treatment. If you have any of the above symptoms of heart disease, make an appointment with your doctor immediately.
The earlier you can start treating heart disease, the better.
Learn more about the early signs of heart disease
7 ways to improve your heart health
We’ve discussed the importance of heart health; now, let’s talk about how you can take action to strengthen your heart and improve your overall wellness. Here are seven tips for living a more heart-healthy life:
- Eat a heart-healthy diet. Think of healthy foods as fuel for your body. A heart-healthy diet has plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes. Limit foods that are processed, high in saturated fats, or have a lot of added sugars and salt.
- Get moving. Getting more physical activity is one of the most heart-healthy fitness choices you can make. If you aren’t used to regular exercise, start slowly and work up to 30 minutes of activity (like walking) daily. Talk to your doctor about what a safe fitness routine looks like for you, especially if you have any health conditions.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight is good for your heart and quality of life. If you’re overweight, losing even 10 pounds will reduce your risk of heart disease and help improve your blood pressure. Start by keeping a food journal and setting short-term goals. Consider weight-loss coaching if you need support.
- Stop smoking. Smoking isn’t just bad for your lungs. It’s bad for your heart too. Smoking increases your heart disease and stroke risk by two to four times. No matter your age, your heart health will improve within a few weeks of quitting.
- Get plenty of (good) sleep. Not getting enough sleep can increase your blood pressure and cause other health problems. Learning to sleep better is good for both physical and emotional health. If you have trouble sleeping, consider a sleep study.
- Stress less. Chronic stress or anxiety can increase your blood pressure and even damage your heart. Find healthy ways to manage your stress and manage your mental health. Mindfulness exercises, meditation, or counseling can help.
- Get regular checkups. Schedule regular physicals with your doctor to monitor your health and find any problems before they get worse. At your annual health checkup, your doctor will listen to your heart and check your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. They will also talk to you about healthy living and disease prevention.
FAQs about the importance of heart health
Below are some frequently asked questions about why heart health is important and what you should know about certain cardiovascular conditions.
What makes your heart stronger?
All the tips listed above are excellent ways to care for your heart. Being physically active, eating a healthy diet, and seeing your doctor regularly are important steps to maintaining a healthier heart. And, if you smoke, quitting is critical to your heart health.
What causes heart failure?
Congestive heart failure happens when the heart muscle doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. This leads to blood getting backed up and fluid building up in the lungs, which then causes shortness of breath. Some heart conditions, such as coronary artery disease or high blood pressure, cause the heart to become too weak to fill and pump blood properly.
At what age do people have heart failure?
According to the American Heart Association, of all adults 40 and older, one in five Americans will develop heart failure in their lifetime. Heart disease risk increases as we age, so the sooner you develop heart-healthy habits, the better.
Can an ECG detect heart failure?
An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is one of the diagnostic tests used by doctors to check for heart failure. The ECG shows if parts of the heart are damaged, too large, or overworked. It can also show if you’ve had a heart attack or abnormal heart rhythm.
Can you fix heart failure?
Heart failure can be life-threatening, but the right treatments and lifestyle changes can improve symptoms and help people live longer. Some people with heart failure may need a ventricular assist device (VAD) or heart transplant.
The best way to prevent heart failure is to maintain a healthy lifestyle and prevent or properly manage the conditions that cause it, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary artery disease.
Heart care at Logansport Memorial Hospital
We believe in the importance of heart health. Logansport Memorial Hospital’s cardiopulmonary department offers high-quality, critical care close to home, with inpatient and outpatient care for our heart patients.
Our individualized services include certified heart health education for patients and family members, diet consultations, monitored exercise, stress management, risk factor and behavior modification strategies, and support groups.