Daily steps to keep your heart healthy Heart disease is a formidable foe. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease accounts for nearly 25 percent of all deaths in the United States each year. Issues relating to the heart affect both men and women, and an estimated 15 million adults in the U.S. have coronary heart disease, the most common type of heart disease. And heart disease is not exclusive to the United States, as the Heart Research Institute says that every seven minutes in Canada someone dies from heart disease or stroke. Such statistics are disconcerting, but they can serve as a wake-up call that compels people to prioritize heart health. Fortunately, heart disease is often preventable and people can employ various strategies to reduce their risk. • Stop smoking right now. One of the best things to do to protect the heart is to stop smoking. The Heart Foundation indicates that smoking reduces oxygen in the blood and damages blood vessel walls. It also contributes to atherosclerosis, or a narrowing and clogging of the arteries. Dr. James Ervin of the Family Medical Clinic of Crystal Springs adds, “Smoking cessation is one of the most important things someone can do to prevent heart disease. Many patients don’t try because they have failed in the past. Newer medications can make efforts to stop more likely to succeed.” • Eat healthy fats. When eating, choose polyunsaturated and unsaturated fats and avoid trans fats as much as possible. Trans fats increase one’s risk of developing heart disease by clogging arteries and raising LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Read food labels before buying anything at the store. “It’s important to know your numbers in regard to cholesterol and blood pressure. A good way to do this is to have routine wellness exams, which are designed to look for risk factors for heart disease,” says Dr. Ervin. • Keep your mouth clean. Studies show that bacteria in the mouth involved in the development of gum disease can travel to the bloodstream and cause an elevation in C-reactive protein, a marker for blood vessel inflammation. Brush and floss twice daily, and be sure to schedule routine dental cleanings. • Get adequate shut-eye. Ensuring adequate sleep can improve heart health. One study found that young and middle-age adults who regularly slept seven hours a night had less calcium in their arteries (a sign of early heart disease) compared to those who slept five hours or less, or those who slept nine hours or more. • Adopt healthy eating habits. Changes to diet, including eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein, can help you lose and maintain a healthy weight, improve cholesterol levels, and reduce blood pressure leading to a healthier heart. • Embrace physical activity. Regular moderate exercise is great for the heart. It can occur at the gym, playing with the kids, or even taking the stairs at work. Stephanie Welch, owner of Core Training, emphasizes how important aerobic exercise and strength training are for heart health. Welch said, “We already know that keeping your weight under control can help prevent artery damage from high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure, but we should also make sure that we are incorporating plenty of exercise into our daily schedule. I make it my job to inform, encourage, and motivate people to find some form of exercise that will get their heart rate up and challenge their muscles. Finding less than one hour a day to exercise should be a priority. Aerobic exercise will improve circulation, which results in lowered blood pressure and heart rate. It also reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. The more muscle mass you develop, the more calories you burn. Resistance training will help you to reduce fat and create leaner muscle mass. The two of these together will help raise good cholesterol and lower the bad cholesterol.” Welch encourages readers to find some type of physical activity they enjoy doing that will challenge their heart and muscles. “After all, we only get one body to carry us through this life, and taking care of it should be at the very top of our to do list,” she adds. • Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about heart-healthy supplements. Jane Laird, RN, of Guy’s Pharmacy in McComb, suggests, “Two of the best things you can do to help your heart is to reduce inflammation and have a healthy response to stress. Guy’s Pharmacy’s adrenal products will help your body respond better to the stresses of life.” A healthy heart begins with daily habits that promote long-term heart health and routine wellness exams to alert you of any concerning or potential risk factors. If you or a family member do not have a primary care provider to schedule a routine wellness exam with, the providers at Family Medical Clinic of Crystal Springs are taking new patients and are ready to aid you in achieving your health goals. Call 601-892-3063 to schedule your wellness exam today. For more information about Core Training class options, rates, and times, stop by the Crystal Springs location, or call 601-953-1228. For assistance in finding the right dietary supplements to help improve your cardiovascular health, please visit Guy’s Pharmacy in Crystal Springs, or call 601-647-0030.