Did you know the human heart beats about 2.5 billion times over the average lifetime? It works tirelessly to pump oxygen-rich blood to every cell in our bodies and remove the waste products of metabolism. In fact, it’s one of the most vital organs keeping us alive, so it’s important to keep it healthy.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and has been since 1921, according to the Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker. But it’s more complicated than you think. While it doesn’t discriminate gender or race, several conditions fall under its umbrella, including:
An improper beating of the heart, whether irregular, too fast or too slow.
A build-up of plaque (fats, cholesterol, etc.) on the artery walls that causes thinning and hardening.
A hereditary disease of the heart muscle that makes it difficult for the heart to deliver blood to the body and can lead to heart failure.
- Congenital heart defects
Abnormalities of the heart that develop before birth.
- Coronary artery disease (CAD)
A build-up of plaque in the main arteries that supply blood to your heart.
- Heart infections
Any irritant, like bacteria, a virus, a parasite or a chemical, that reaches your heart muscle and causes damage to the inner lining, valves, outer membrane or the muscle itself.
While you cannot prevent hereditary diseases or conditions, you can take steps toward heart disease prevention no matter the cause.
How to prevent heart disease
The American Heart Association recommends focusing on heart disease prevention early in life. The sooner you identify your risks and take preventative steps to keep them low, the better chance you have of living a heart-healthy life. Here’s how to prevent heart disease in five easy steps:
- Eat a heart-healthy diet
To have a heart-healthy diet, it’s important to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean poultry and fish, whole grains, and other high-fiber foods. Be sure to choose foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, sodium (salt) and cholesterol. This means avoiding foods like baked goods, fried foods, doughnuts, crackers and microwave popcorn.
- Exercise every day
Regular exercise strengthens your heart and improves your circulation. The increased blood flow raises oxygen levels throughout your body, which helps lower your blood pressure (a leading cause of heart disease).
- Limit and manage stress
Managing stress can improve blood flow to the heart, further lowering your risk of heart disease. Preventing and managing long-term stress can also lower your risk of obesity, high blood pressure and depression.
- Manage cholesterol
Your body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, but too much can increase your risk of heart disease. High cholesterol levels can lead to a build-up of fatty deposits in your blood vessels, causing reduced blood flow through your arteries.
- Avoid smoking
Smoking increases your heart rate, tightens major arteries and can lead to an irregular heart rhythm—all of which make your heart work harder. Over time, smoking tobacco products (or vaping) contributes to atherosclerosis and high blood pressure. It also increases your risk of heart disease, heart failure or heart attack.
Keep your heart healthy by following the tips above and getting a heart check-up with the skilled team at Coastal Urgent Care of Bossier/Haughton. We’re equipped with onsite vital diagnostic technology, like digital x-rays, electrocardiograms (EKGs) and an onsite lab for same-day results. We welcome walk-in appointments Mon-Fri, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Sat-Sun, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.