Looking through the news always results in something novel about cardiovascular disease. Researchers continue to discover new aspects about the conditions behind and associated with heart disease and stroke (the No. 1 and No. 5 killers of Americans). Heart failure is one of those aspects.
While the term “heart failure” has an ominous ring to it, it does not mean the heart is no longer working and there is nothing to be done. In actuality, heart failure can be managed for years – even decades – with the right changes in lifestyle, medication, implantable devices or surgery.
Your body depends on a pumping heart to deliver both oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to your body’s cells. We use the term heart failure to describe a heart that can’t keep up with its workload. When that happens, the body may not get the oxygen it needs and cells aren’t nourished properly. This lack of oxygen can result in fatigue and shortness of breath, making everyday activities, like walking or carrying groceries, very difficult.
While there are many factors that are out of our control when it comes to heart disease, I like to focus on the things we can control. Below are a few of the factors we now know to be effective in avoiding cardiovascular disease.
The American Heart Association's "Life's Simple 7" can help you in that goal:
• Manage Blood Pressure: High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. When your blood pressure stays within healthy ranges, you reduce the strain on your heart, arteries and kidneys which keeps you healthier longer. Learn how to manage your blood pressure.
• Control Cholesterol: High cholesterol contributes to plaque, which can clog arteries and lead to heart disease and stroke. When you control your cholesterol, you are giving your arteries their best chance to remain clear of blockages. Learn how to control your cholesterol.
• Reduce Blood Sugar: Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose (or blood sugar) that our bodies use for energy. Over time, high levels of blood sugar can damage your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves. Learn how to reduce your blood sugar.
• Get Active: Living an active life is one of the most rewarding gifts you can give yourself and those you love. Simply put, daily physical activity increases your length and quality of life. Learn how to get active.
• Eat Better: A healthy diet is one of your best weapons for fighting cardiovascular disease. When you eat a heart-healthy diet, you improve your chances for feeling good and staying healthy – for life! Learn how to eat better.
• Lose Weight: When you shed extra fat and unnecessary pounds, you reduce the burden on your heart, lungs, blood vessels and skeleton. You give yourself the gift of active living, you lower your blood pressure and you help yourself feel better, too. Learn how to lose weight.
• Stop Smoking: Cigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health. Learn how to stop smoking.
Start small. And keep it simple. Make just one change today and soon, you'll be ready to make another. Before you know it you'll be living life more fully than you might ever have thought. You're worth it.
Finally, if you want to learn more about heart failure, I’ll be hosting a seminar on Wednesday, May 20, through Zoom from 6-7 p.m. If you’d like to learn more or register, visit www.stmaryskc.com/events or contact Alex Colley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 816-655-5365.
Michael Liston, MD, is a cardiologist with St. Mary’s Heart Center..