February is HEART Month. Maybe that is because Valentine's Day is in the middle of it, but the American Heart Association wants to remind you that heart disease is still the number one killer and consumer of nearly $313 billion per year. I always knew that affairs of the heart can be dangerous and expensive.
Let's review a few things that you need to do to take care of yourself. Prevention is more efficient and less expensive than treatment.
First, eat sensibly. Research and experience both support eating six small servings per day as a way of maintaining your metabolism and controlling your weight. Avoid excess salt and watch her cholesterol intake. Fiber will help in a number of ways, including elimination of excess cholesterol.
Second, related to the paragraph above, keep your weight under control. Excess weight puts extra work on the heart. Follow your body mass index (BMI) as a general guide. It is not a perfect measurement, but it is something objective that you can watch. If you don't have access to a chart, you can do an internet search, and there are also smart phone apps that will calculate it for you. We have a chart here in the clinic if you would like to drop by, and we can measure both your BMI and body fat on a handheld computer. Keep that BMI under 30.
Exercise on a regular basis. The heart is a muscle regulated by the kidneys, nervous system, and a handful of hormones. Like other muscles, it gets stronger when it is used. It will help with the whole stress thing, too.
Keep a watch on your blood pressure. Blood pressure is a measure of the resistance the heart encounters as it popped blood through your system. If your heart is pumping through high resistance, it will wear out faster like any other pump.
If you smoke, stop it immediately. Don't even hang out with people who do smoke. Second-hand smoke is bad for you, too, but it will really discourage you if you are trying to quit. If your friends smoke, change your friends. They are a bad influence on your health.
A little bit of alcohol is good. Red wine, for example, has been shown to have antioxidants that are generally good for you. If you are male, limit yourself to a couple of ounces per day in whatever form you choose, and one ounce if you are female. Less than that is better. Do not mix alcohol with any anticoagulant, including aspirin.
Get your cholesterol checked on a regular basis. If it is even in the moderate range, consider a regular dose of omega-3 (fish oil) to bring it down. Also, a non-flushing niacin daily will keep your triglycerides under control. These conservative measures are usually enough to do the trick without expensive medications that all have side effects.
Diabetes is accelerating in our culture with obesity. In Spalding County, about 68% of our citizens are overweight, with about half of those being clinically obese. We already have 12% of our population with diabetes now. Diabetes accelerates cardiovascular disease. If you have a family history of diabetes, or unexplained weight loss, thirst, hunger, headaches, etc., get yourself checked. It can sneak up on you like an unpaid bill.
If you are taking prescription medications to maintain the health of your cardiovascular system, keep taking them. See your doctor on a regular basis to make sure those medications are the right dose and for the right problem. This is not to imply that your doctor makes mistakes, but it is true that our conditions change over time, and medications may need to be adjusted in dosage, changed altogether, or discontinued.
Watch your stress. Don't try to go through life like the Lone Ranger. Everybody needs a Tonto. Find a hobby or something you enjoy for a stress outlet. Get involved in something larger than yourself. Find something rewarding and pursue it.
I saw something cross stitched once that stuck with me: "Life is like a roll of toilet tissue – it goes faster toward the end." It seems a good analogy. Live life to the fullest every day. You need your health to enjoy it completely. If you need help with that, call me!
As to the other kind of "affairs of the heart" spotlighted around Valentine's Day, my advice is not as useful. These issues can be hazardous to your health, too. Guidance there is above my pay grade. I only hope you are as blessed as I am.