It’s always a great time to create a new and improved, healthier version of you. A good way to start a healthier lifestyle is to think about ways you can lower your risk of developing heart disease.
Understanding heart disease risk factors
Traditional risks of heart disease can be categorized as non-modifiable (genetic) or modifiable. But remember, the same parents that gave you your high cholesterol, for instance, may have also given you your bright personality. Risk factors of heart disease include high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and an unhealthy diet. Other risk-enhancing factors include an elevated C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a marker of inflammation and inflammatory/rheumatic disorders, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, and an elevated Lipoprotein(a) (LPa), a low-density component of your lipids that can cause blood clotting.
Risk factors specifically for women
- Premature menarche (menstrual periods earlier than age 13)
- Premature menopause (before age 40)
- Pregnancy-related diseases (such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes)
Reduce your risk of heart disease, keep your heart beating strong
Treatments can include lifestyle changes and potentially medication
The primary way to reduce the risk of heart disease is lifestyle modification, which means implementing a healthy diet and regular exercise. Treatment may also include medications, but the focus should be on modifying unhealthy habits that are in your control. In some instances, medications can be decreased or even discontinued with aggressive risk factor modification.
Aim to exercise 150 minutes a week—that’s only 21 minutes a day! —The American Heart Association
The most heart healthy diets are plant-based and Mediterranean, which both consist of eating fresh, unprocessed foods with a focus on fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, substituting saturated fats with mono or polyunsaturated fats, and minimizing processed meats, refined carbohydrates, and sweetened beverages.
And a special shout out to yoga, which has been shown to help reduce stress and stress-related disorders such as high blood pressure, cholesterol panel abnormalities, and abnormal body mass index. Yoga can reduce anxiety and depression, decrease heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight, and improve physical functioning, health, and vitality.
A study published in the journal Heart in 2006 showed an improvement in blood flow in those watching a comedy ("Saturday Night Live") versus those watching a stressful movie ("Saving Private Ryan").
If you’ve had a cardiac event, Phelps offers personalized rehabilitation
Should you need specialized care after a cardiac event, Phelps Hospital, Northwell Health cardiac care encompasses a three-phased personalized rehabilitation program and includes additional services such as nutritional counseling, physical and occupational therapy, and emergency and critical care.
The Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Center at Phelps is dedicated to improving your heart health. Our team of rehabilitation medicine specialists customize a heart-healthy program that fits your specific lifestyle needs. This personalized treatment program consists of three phases, to get you back to a healthy and active lifestyle.
Phase 1: Occurs in the hospital, immediately following a cardiac event.
Phase 2: Implements a 12-week cardio-conditioning class prescribed by your doctor.
Phase 3: Involves a process to help you consistently achieve health maintenance and can be completed at your local gym, the Phelps Wellness Center, or even at home.
When lifestyle and alternative therapy is not enough, speak to your doctor about if and when you need medications as the treatment guidelines are specific to the individual. To schedule an appointment with a cardiologist, call (914) 762-5810 or visit phelps.northwell.edu/cardiology and let the Phelps team reinvigorate your heart.