Tips for Improving Heart Health and Managing Heart Disease - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on April 22, 2014

Tips for Improving Heart Health and Managing Heart Disease

Even if you’ve already been diagnosed with heart disease, there are ways to improve your heart health or at least delay further damage to your heart. Doing so requires a willingness to make the necessary lifestyle changes.

Woman Holding Toy Heart

You can improve your heart health by
making a commitment make certain
lifestyle changes.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women. However, it is not a single disease, but rather an umbrella term for a variety of conditions affecting the heart, including heart failure, heart attack and valvular disease and arrhythmia.

“The most common types are coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure and valvular disease,” says Edward LaPorta, M.D., chief of the Section of Cardiology at Delaware County Memorial Hospital.

Since one’s risk for heart disease can depend upon a number of different factors, such as race, age, physical inactivity, smoking, family history, diabetes, cholesterol and uncontrolled blood pressure, it’s not always possible to prevent the onset of heart disease. If you’ve been diagnosed with a particular heart condition, your physician may recommend certain medications, surgery or another procedure to keep your heart healthy and functioning to the best of its ability.

No matter what your physician recommends, however, Dr. LaPorta emphasizes the need for patients to take responsibility for their own health. “It’s one thing for a physician to prescribe medicine, but it’s another to take it,” he says. “People need to be proactive with their own health, such as keeping follow-up appointments and taking prescribed medications.”

Additionally, there are other ways for you to take control. They include:

  • Controlling your blood pressure: Uncontrolled blood pressure can worsen your pre-existing heart condition. As a result, you may need frequent measurements if your blood pressure is higher than normal.
  • Monitoring your cholesterol levels: Your cholesterol levels should be monitored regularly throughout adulthood and it’s vital that it continues to be monitored after you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease.
  • Quitting smoking: Since carbon monoxide damages the lining of blood vessels and nicotine constricts them, which forces the heart to work harder, it’s essential that you quit smoking as soon as possible.
  • Managing diabetes: Diabetes can increase your chances of heart disease and worsen a pre-existing condition, so be sure to monitor your blood sugar levels.
  • Following a healthy diet: Skip processed food items and go for fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean protein and fish. You may want to try the DASH diet, which was specifically designed to lower blood pressure by focusing on foods that are low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. Also, U.S. News & World Report recently ranked it as the best overall diet.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese can dramatically increase your risk for heart disease—particularly, for those whose weight lies mostly in their midsection. If you’re concerned about your current weight, speak with your physician for exercise and diet tips.
  • Reducing stress: Relaxation, meditation and deep breathing are all great ways to manage stress, which can help lower your blood pressure.
  • Practicing good hygiene: Regularly washing your hands and practicing basic health hygiene are important ways to prevent viral or bacterial infections that can add further stress to your heart. Additionally, flossing and brushing your teeth can prevent germs in your mouth from adding to existing plaques in the heart.
  • Getting a flu shot: Those with heart disease are at greater risk of a heart attack if they get the flu. Be sure to get an annual flu shot to lower your risk.

Learn more about Crozer-Keystone’s cardiology services.

To schedule an appointment with a Crozer-Keystone cardiologist who is right for you, contact the Cardiology Appointment Scheduling Line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-866-95-PULSE (1-866-957-8573) or visit http://ckheart.crozerkeystone.org to submit an online appointment request.

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