January 31, 2024

February is American Heart Month. This is a good time to understand your risk for heart disease and take  steps toward better heart health. Roughly half of all Americans have at least one of the top three risk factors for heart disease: High blood pressure, high cholesterol or smoking.

Manpreet Kanwar MD

Cardiovascular Medicine (Heart Care)

Our risks for heart disease matter because heart disease remains the leading cause of death for both men and women.

While heart disease and heart attacks are more common with age, they can affect people at any age. One troubling trend is a rise in heart disease and heart attacks in people under the age of 40 in the United States. We can reverse this trend.

So, let’s be proactive and look at ways to lead a heart healthy lifestyle.

Here are the Top 7 Tips for Heart Health.

  1. Eat for good health: Eating foods high in salt, sugar, saturated fat and processed carbohydrates raise your risk for heart attack. Focus on adding more fruits, veggies and whole grains to meals and snacks. When it comes to protein, eat more plant-based proteins than meats. Soy-based proteins, lentils, chickpeas, almonds, peanuts, beans, sprouted grain breads and chia seeds are excellent protein sources. Tofu contains 10 grams of protein per half cup, and is super easy to cook! A large baked potato offers 8 grams of protein. Choose mushrooms, broccoli and kale as sides to add protein and antioxidants.
  2. Be active: Regular physical activity can help people lower their blood pressure and cholesterol and maintain a healthy weight. Health experts recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week. Walking is a good way to improve overall health. Work your way up 20-30 minutes every day. If walking outside is challenging, try indoor walking tracks at VINE Adult Community Center, Madison East Center, River Hills Mall and St. Peter Community Center. There are even walking workout videos that make it fun to walk in place in your home. Check with your healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise routine.
  3. Check your cholesterol: Your healthcare provider should test your cholesterol levels at least once every 4-6 years. Talk with your provider about this simple blood test. If you do have high cholesterol, lifestyle changes and medicine can help lower your cholesterol and risk for heart disease.  
  4. Control your blood pressure: A normal blood pressure is 120/80 or lower. Health care providers usually take several readings at different appointments before diagnosing patients with elevated or high blood pressure. High blood pressure, or hypertension, causes harm by making the heart and blood vessels work harder and less efficiently and damaging artery tissues. If blood pressure medication is prescribed, it’s important to take as directed.  
  5. Know your family history: If heart disease, heart attacks, high blood pressure and cholesterol run in your family, talk with your healthcare provider because you may need your cholesterol and blood pressure checked more often. Be sure to tell your provider if your father, mother or sibling had a heart attack before age 50.
  6. Don’t smoke: Smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. Quit Partner is Minnesota’s free program to quit nicotine, smoking, vaping and chewing. Call 1-800-Quit-Now or visit www.quitpartnermn.com for tools and support. Your healthcare provider can also help. 
  7. Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese puts people at higher risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Carrying too much weight puts an extra strain on your heart and circulatory system which can lead to serious health problems. Talk to your healthcare provider about healthy weight loss and weight management plans. Make sure you choose a comprehensive plan that includes healthy, sustainable, lifestyle changes. Mankato Clinic offers Enara Health.