Heart disease: You can control it if you have it

Did you know heart disease is still the leading cause of death for both men and women? The good news is that you can prevent heart disease. And if you already have it, you can control it.

The most common form of heart disease in the United States is coronary heart disease. This is when your arteries, which supply blood to your heart, can get clogged by a substance called plaque. You may then develop chest pain, heart failure, an irregular heartbeat or even have a heart attack.

So let heart awareness month help move you towards heart healthier lifestyle choices. Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help get you started on your journey towards better heart health:

Eat a healthy diet. Choose healthy meals and snacks. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Eat foods low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. Eat foods high in fiber. Limit salt in your diet.

Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease. To find out if your weight is in a healthy range, doctors often calculate a number called the body mass index (BMI). If you know your weight and height, you can calculate your BMI at www.cdc.gov. Need help with weight loss? Contact your local dietitian at Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital by calling 541-387-6133 for an appointment.

Exercise most days. Being activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The surgeon general recommends adults exercise at moderate-intensity for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. For more information on physical activity, contact Providence Hood River Cardiovascular Conditioning Center at 541-387-6326.

Check your blood pressure. High blood pressure is called the “silent killer.” It often has no symptoms, so be sure to have it checked on a regular basis. You can check your blood pressure at home, at a pharmacy, or at a doctor’s office. Providence Hood River offers a free blood pressure reading clinic from 9 a.m. to noon on the first Tuesday of each month. Visit the main lobby of the hospital and ask for the clinic.

Don’t smoke. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quit as soon as possible. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you quit. For more information about tobacco use and quitting, visit www.quitnow.net/oregon.

Limit alcohol use. Avoid drinking too much alcohol. Men should stick to no more than two drinks per day, and women to no more than one.

Check your cholesterol. Your health care provider should test your cholesterol at least once every five years. Talk with your doctor about this simple blood test.

Manage your diabetes. If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar levels closely, and talk with your doctor about treatment options. For more information, call the Providence Hood River diabetes education program at 541-387-6381.

Take your medicine. If you’re taking medication to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. Always ask questions if you don’t understand something.

— Kelly Chambers, Providence

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