Protect your Heart: Heart Disease and Management

Nov. 7, 2023

Heart disease is a condition where the heart's normal functioning is affected, often due to clogged arteries, heart rhythm problems, or issues with heart valves, leading to potential complications and decreased heart efficiency with decreased supply of blood to vital organs including heart and brain which can be life-threatening. Cardiovascular disease (CVD), which includes heart disease and strokes is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), CVD-related mortality affects approximately 1 in 4 males and 1 in 6 females in the population.

What are the main factors that can cause heart disease?

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, lack of physical activity, smoking, diabetes, and obesity.  These conditions damage your heart and blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart problems.

What is high blood pressure, and why is it harmful?

High blood pressure harms arteries, allowing plaque to clog them, and narrowing arteries to the heart and brain. Your heart must work harder to pump blood, which can damage your arteries. Damaged arteries can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Americans often consume higher quantities of sodium (SALT) daily, surpassing the recommended 2,300 mg, mostly from processed food. The American Heart Association recommends the following to control high blood pressure :

  • Eat a well-balanced diet that’s low in salt.
  • Limit alcohol intake.
  • Enjoy regular physical activity (e.g. 30 min walk, gardening, riding a bike).
  • Manage stress  effectively(e.g. breathing exercises, meditation)
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Take your medications properly.
What is dietary advice for heart disease prevention?

As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines:

  • Incorporate whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat, maize (corn)
  • Colorful vegetables such as tomatoes, squash, peppers, and leafy greens. 
  • Local fruits like prickly pears, melons, and citrus fruits which are rich in vitamins and fiber.
  • Include beans, lentils, and peas for protein and fiber.
  • Choose fatty fish like salmon, trout, and sardines which are high in omega-3 fatty acids, and skinless chicken. 
  • Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds for healthy fats, fiber, and protein. 
  • Olive oil for cooking; it's high in monounsaturated fats.
  • Incorporate avocados into salads and sandwiches
  • Cut down on sodas and sugary beverages.
  • Limit processed meats: Minimize the intake of processed meats like sausage and bacon.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially in the arid climate of Arizona.
What role does physical activity play in heart health?

Physical activity keeps your heart strong and healthy. It helps control your weight, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduces stress. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Activities like walking, swimming, or gardening are excellent forms of exercise!

Is smoking really that harmful to my heart?

Yes, smoking is very harmful to your heart. It damages your blood vessels, making them sticky and prone to clots. Smoking also raises bad cholesterol and lowers good cholesterol (HDL Cholesterol). It's a leading cause of heart disease and can be deadly.  

Resources to learn more about heart health: