Heart Month, Valentine’s Day edition: Lost love isn’t the only thing that will break your heart

By Kristy Bleizeffer 4 days ago

Instead of measuring Valentine’s Day by how much chocolate or how many roses you receive, measure it by how well you treat the most important muscle in your body: your heart. 

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States.

“The best treatment is to prevent heart disease from happening in the first place,” said Dr. John Pickrell, a cardiologist at Wyoming Medical Center and Wyoming Cardiopulmonary Services.  “It does go down to some very basic things. It is as simple as eating a good healthy diet and exercising and keeping a good healthy weight. Not smoking or quitting smoking is a large part of what we emphasize."

You can take steps today to lower your risk for heart disease and heart attack. Use our Valentine's Day healthy heart guide to starting showing your heart the love it deserves.

KNOW YOUR RISK

Coronary Heart Disease is caused when arteries carrying blood to the heart are blocked by a build up of cholesterol  and plaque. Plaque is caused by fat and cholesterol in the blood, high blood pressure, smoking and excess sugar in the blood (usually from diabetes.) Blocked arteries can cause heart attacks.

You are at higher risk for heart disease if:

  • You are a woman over age 55
  • You are a man over age 45
  • Your father or brother had heart disease before age 55
  • Your mother or sister had heart disease before age 65

EAT HEALTHY AND GET ACTIVE

A healthy diet and exercise program will not only protect your heart, but will help you maintain a healthy weight.

“I think one of my kicks lately is that we need to make sure we have a healthy community with access to fresh fruits and vegetables and we are providing healthy eating options for our children,” Pickrell said. “That we have exercise opportunities and we use them.”

Heart healthy foods are low in:

  • cholesterol
  • saturated and trans fats
  • sugar
  • salt

Heart healthy foods are high in: 

  • fiber, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables
  • healthy fats, such as olive oil and fish

DON’T SMOKE

Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke. When you quit smoking, your risk of having a heart attack goes down.

“Smoking raises your chances of developing coronary artery disease. It leads to lung disease, emphysema and chronic bronchitis. There have been studies in the past where you look at a large population and you see who gets coronary artery disease and who does not, based on who smokes and other factors,” Pickrell said.

For free support and to make your quitting plan, contact the Wyoming Quit Tobacco program at 1-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). Many resources are also available at its website.  Wyoming Medical Center is a tobacco-free campus.

CONTROL YOUR NUMBERS

High blood pressure and cholesterol are risk factors for heart disease and should be monitored. High blood pressure, or hypertension, has no signs or symptoms and you should check your blood pressure at least once every two years beginning at age 18. 

About 1 in 6 American adults has high cholesterol. Get yours checked if you are:

  • a man 35 and older
  • a man younger than 35 but have heart disease or its risk factors
  • a woman who has heart disease or its risk factors

OTHER TIPS

  • Drink in moderation. This means no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men. One drink is a bottle of beer (12 ounces), glass of wine (5 ounces) or a shot of liquor (1.5 ounces).
  • Manage stress. You can help prevent serious health problems like heart disease, depression and high blood pressure if you can keep your stress in check. If stress is a problem, consider a consult at the NERD Health and Wellness Center.
  • Consider an aspirin regimen.  Daily aspirin can reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke by preventing blood clots. Aspirin is not recommended for everyone. Talk to your doctor to decide if an aspirin regimen is right for you.
John Pickrell, MD

John Pickrell M.D.

John Pickrell, M.D., is board certified in Cardiovascular Disease and Internal Medicine. He practices cardiology at Wyoming Cardiopulmonary, 1230 E. First St., in Casper. Call (307) 266-3174 for a referral or more information. 

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