February is American Heart Month, an ideal time to learn about heart disease prevention, and the important steps you can take to improve your heart health. Although some risk factors for heart disease—such as age, gender, race, and heredity—are impossible to control, many others can be modified.
Habits such as inactivity, poor nutrition, and smoking leave your heart more vulnerable to disease. Taking just a few simple steps to limit or eliminate these habits can contribute to not only a healthy heart, but a healthy life, as well.
Health Tips to Take to Heart
There’s a reason why blood pressure screenings are part of nearly every routine medical exam. They’re a key indicator of your heart’s health. Regardless of your age or risk level, it’s important to have your blood pressure monitored regularly to make sure it stays within the normal range of less than 120/80.
A reading any higher than this indicates high blood pressure, known as hypertension, the number one risk factor for heart disease. Low blood pressure, hypotension, is less likely to cause health issues, but should be checked out if accompanied by dizziness, nausea, or fatigue.
If you have concerns about either high or low blood pressure, talk to your healthcare provider about solutions. Medication or lifestyle changes may be recommended to help you control the problem.
Understand Your Risk Factors for Heart Disease
Heart disease prevention begins with knowing your risk level. Since high blood pressure has no noticeable symptoms, the only way to detect a problem is through regular blood pressure monitoring. This step is particularly important for those individuals at high risk, including:
- Older adults
- Those with a family history of hypertension
For those with only slightly high readings, the following steps should help bring your blood pressure within the normal range.
Eat a healthy diet: Replace salty, sugary, and overly processed foods with fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts. These diet changes will contribute to a healthy life by making a positive impact on your blood pressure.
Get regular exercise: Regular exercise not only aids in heart disease prevention, it helps control weight. This can be a worthwhile benefit on its own in managing hypertension. Aim for 40 minutes of aerobic activity, three to four times per week. You should notice a drop in blood pressure of up to six points. Add weight training to your routine to drop your reading another three points. Just make sure you check with your healthcare provider prior to starting any new exercise activity.
Manage your weight: As mentioned previously, your weight is an important factor in developing heart disease. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), losing as few as 10 pounds could make a major improvement in your next blood pressure screening. Losing weight has the greatest impact on those who are obese (more than 20% overweight) or already suffer from hypertension.
Quit smoking and limit alcohol use: Giving up smoking should be an immediate priority, since it’s a major contributor to high blood pressure, as well as a number of other serious conditions. Alcohol, too, should be limited, or even eliminated, to ensure your blood pressure stays within the healthy range.
Where to Monitor Your Blood Pressure
Following these simple health tips should bring your blood pressure under control. However, it’s still important to regularly monitor your progress through screenings. This is especially true if you have any high risk factors for heart disease.
FastMed offers a convenient alternative for those who can’t make it into the doctor’s office during normal hours. Our experienced healthcare professionals provide quick, accurate readings at neighborhood clinics throughout Arizona, North Carolina, and Texas. We’re open extended hours, 365 days a year, with no appointment necessary.
Get to the Heart of a Problem
If you suspect you may have a heart condition, an EKG (electrocardiogram) can provide a quick analysis. FastMed offers onsite EKGs to conveniently evaluate any concerns.
Our providers are trained to recognize the variations in an EKG tracing, as well as abnormalities they may suggest. This information can then be used to determine the best course of treatment.
Our qualified medical staff will provide immediate care, and can also refer you to an appropriate specialist, if needed. With your permission, we’ll work closely with any other healthcare providers, sharing electronic medical records and ensuring your ongoing medical needs are met.
FastMed Urgent Care owns and operates more than 100 locations across Arizona, North Carolina and Texas, providing a broad range of acute/episodic and preventive healthcare services 365 days per year. FastMed also provides workers’ compensation services at all of its clinics, and family and sports medicine services at select locations. FastMed has successfully treated more than 5.8 million patients since the opening of its first clinic in 2005, and is the largest urgent care operator to be awarded the Joint Commission Gold Seal of Approval® for accreditation in healthcare quality and safety in ambulatory healthcare. For more information about locations, services, hours of operation, insurance and prices, visit www.FastMed.com.