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Monday, February 23, 2015

February is Heart Health Month

Monitoring my heart

February is heart health month. This is something that I am painfully aware of because two years ago I had a health scare that required me to take my first visit to a cardiologist. I’d been preparing for bed when an overwhelming feeling of dizziness came over me. I aborted my plan to brush my teeth and as I headed back into my bedroom to lay down, I completely passed out and woke up on the floor after hitting my shoulder on the footboard of my bed. I visited urgent care and was referred to a cardiologist to ensure that nothing serious was wrong with me. After an ekg and a stress test, it was determined that my heart is fine and fainting was a one off incident.

This entire episode was quite scary for me, I am in shape and a runner athlete and was pretty sure my heart was in great condition, however it was important for me to get checked out. This is especially true for me because I have a history of heart disease in my family. On my mother’s side, every adult has hypertension also known as high blood pressure. When a person is hypertensive, the arteries in the heart have elevated pressure and the higher the pressure the harder the heart has to pump.  Ever since I was a little girl, my diet has contained limited sodium because my family avoided it as a preventative measure for high blood pressure. This is one of those diseases that is deceptive because often it presents with no symptoms but can lead to stroke, heart attack and heart failure.

Because of my history I have tried to stay on top of my blood pressure, although I do not need to take medication to keep my blood pressure under control, there have been times when it was slightly elevated and my doctor suggested both diet change and exercise. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that health and fitness are top priorities for me and I do exercise to keep my heart healthy.

My family is not the only one battling heart disease, as a matter of fact, cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease, stroke, and blood pressure, is the nation’s leading cause of death in men and women.  To keep my heart healthy there are several things that I do and want to encourage you to do too.

  • Check your blood pressure regularly (especially if you have a history of hypertension in your family. You can do this at home by using a wrist blood pressure monitor. Walmart has the Advocate wrist blood pressure monitor which is very easy to use and is only $19.99.
  • Exercise. It is recommended that we exercise at least 30 minutes a day. I know, I know, we all have busy and hectic schedules so how to fit it in? An easy and practical way is to walk. Walking is excellent exercise and it is recommended that we get 10,000 steps in a day. You can purchase something simple like the Sportline Digital Distance tracker ($13.29)  which measures steps and calories burned or you can go with something that provides more detail like the Fitbit flex ($94.95) which tracks steps, calories, sleep cycles, and is compatible with your tablet/phone.
  • Eat well. Keep your diet full of Fresh fruits and vegetables, keep sodium use to a minimum and be sure to drink plenty of water!

Making simple lifestyle changes can help you avoid cardiovascular disease. But most importantly, be sure to have an annual physical with your doctor to be sure that you are truly okay. As I mentioned, heart disease can remain undetected and preventative measures taken at home and having annual doctor visits can help save your life.



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