Live a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle – One Step at a Time

Dr. Rahmi Mowjood, CEO, Cucamonga Valley Medical Group

By Rahmi Mowjood, DO, FACOFP

Heart disease continues to be a leading cause of death in men and women in the United States, so it is only fitting, as February Heart Health month, to address ways you can live a heart-healthy lifestyle.

It is important to know your risk factors to help mitigate your risk of heart disease. While there are some risk factors that we cannot control – such as genetics — there are many others which can be managed, controlled and prevented.

High blood pressure, prediabetes/diabetes and high cholesterol are some risk factors that can be managed by lifestyle changes, diet and weight loss. Smoking and inactivity are additional lifestyle choices that can adversely affect your heart.

The good thing is that when we make choices to eat healthy, stay active consistently, quit smoking and lose weight, these risks can be minimized.

Stress has been shown to be an increasing variable that affects our heart. A stressful event manifesting in anger can increase your blood pressure, thereby putting a greater strain on the heart.

An ongoing stressful lifestyle will often lead to poor choices with regards to diet, alcohol use and inactivity. Managing stress through diet, exercise and counseling can help reduce not just your overall heart disease risk, but will help contribute to an overall better healthy life style in general.

Many people turn to smoking to help deal with stress, and this behavior leads to a lifetime dependency on nicotine. Smoking is a very high contributor to heart disease, as cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in smokers, ahead of cancer.

Reducing and quitting dependence on nicotine can have immediate positive effects on your heart health, and will also help with lung function, blood flow and overall immunity.

The lack of adequate sleep can also contribute to a person’s overall risk of developing chronic medical conditions. While we sleep, our body has the ability to adequately restore and repair our blood vessels and heart. Additionally, sleeping allows us to restore a balance to our hormone levels and balances our immune system, which in turn allows our hours of wakefulness to be more balanced and productive.
So do not skip out on a good night’s rest — your heart will thank you!

Finally, so much of our overall health is dependent on our intake and activity level.
Eating foods that are high in fiber and low in fat is good for all aspects of life. Avoiding processed foods, fast food, high glycemic items and foods that are highly preserved will help keep your weight under control, keep your blood pressure stable and keep you from developing diabetes.

Staying active at least 5 days a week is key to strengthening your heart and keeping it free from disease. This can be as simple as walking regularly, but other activities such as team sports, weightlifting and even dancing can be good for your heart if done consistently and with regularity.

Living a heart healthy lifestyle can be achieved if taken one step at a time, recognizing your risk factors, and making the necessary changes in your diet, lifestyle and exercise. Not only will your heart thank you for it, but so will the rest of your body!