Your heart is precious. Protect it. Although this saying rings true on Valentine’s Day, it’s also important to remember throughout the year, as heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Roberto Scaffidi, MD, is an interventional cardiologist with Bayhealth Cardiology Consultants. As a protector of hearts himself, he offers simple tips for loving your heart.
EAT A HEALTHY, WELL-BALANCED DIET
When your mealtime staples are seasonal vegetables and fruits, whole grains, fish, lean meats, and poultry, your heart will be healthier for it. “My family and I get fresh vegetables from local farmer’s markets,” said Dr. Scaffidi. “It makes eating vegetables fun for the whole family.”
Being active is essential to preventing heart disease. The American Heart Association® (AHA) suggests that you participate in at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise. “Walking is ideal for those who haven’t exercised in a while,” said Dr. Scaffidi. “Start slowly and work up to 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise daily.”
Smokers have a higher risk of developing many chronic disorders, including atherosclerosis — the buildup of fatty substances in the arteries — which can lead to coronary heart disease and stroke. Bayhealth has a Freedom from Smoking® program that offers support and guidance to help you quit using all tobacco products. “Take advantage of Bayhealth’s programs,” said Dr. Scaffidi. “Get the support you need.”
MONITOR YOUR CHOLESTEROL
“When your cholesterol rises, your risk of coronary heart disease does as well,” said Dr. Scaffidi. When you have too much LDL or “bad” cholesterol circulating in your blood, it can slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain. “Eating a heart-healthy diet, exercising, and avoiding tobacco smoke can all help lower bad cholesterol,” he said.
HAVE YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE CHECKED REGULARLY
Uncontrolled high blood pressure is sometimes called “the silent killer” because it has no symptoms, but it’s damaging your arteries, heart, and other organs. “Get your blood pressure checked often,” said Dr. Scaffidi. “Know your numbers and work with your primary care physician to make improvements.” Bayhealth offers free Blood Pressure Clinics in Milford.
MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT
Your body mass index or BMI tells you if you’re at a healthy weight. If your BMI is higher than 25 (normal weight), you’re considered overweight or obese. “Excess weight puts additional work on the heart,” said Dr. Scaffidi. It also raises blood pressure and cholesterol. “Start by modifying your diet. You can begin by eliminating sugary drinks and sodas or chips and incorporating 30 minutes of exercise per day,” he said.
KNOW YOUR NUMBERS
“When you’re armed with the right knowledge about your health, you’re better able to make improvements that will help your heart in the long run,” according to Dr. Scaffidi. Know your family history. Understand your risks. “Consider your primary care physician your teammate — both of you driving toward a healthier you.”
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