10 tips for good heart healthSunday, October 03, 2021
HEART disease accounts for 30 per cent of deaths each year in Jamaica and while we might not give it much thought, the heart is the most important muscle in the body.
The heart pumps blood and oxygen to all the organs and when the heart doesn't get the care it needs, serious problems can occur.
It is therefore important that we adopt lifestyles to promote good heart health. Here are 10 tips for good heart health provided by consultant cardiologist Dr Rohan Wilks.
One of the best things we can all do for ourselves is to consume a healthy diet. There are many different diets out there but there are some basic principles that are recommended for us to follow. Things to include in our diet are fruits and vegetables, oily fish like salmon and mackerel, whole grains (bread, pasta rice), nuts & beans and low-fat dairy foods. Things to avoid include red and processed meat, sugar sweetened foods and beverages, processed foods, refined carbohydrates like white bread, cakes, white flour and sweet desserts, excessive alcohol and excessive salt.
Along with a healthy diet, exercise is a major factor in maintaining good heart health. Aim to exercise at least 150 minutes per week. We can achieve this by walking, running, swimming or cycling five days per week for 30 minutes each day.
3. Achieve/maintain ideal weight
Obesity is a major factor leading to heart disease and according to the Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey, half of Jamaican adults are either overweight or obese. A healthy diet and exercise are key ways to address obesity. This is often very difficult and we should not be afraid to get professional help from nutritionists and personal trainers if we are having difficulty. Also we should also consult our doctors because there may be medication or surgical options to help in specific cases.
4. Maintain normal blood pressure
Hypertension is another major contributor to heart disease which is common in our population. According to the Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey, two out of every three Jamaicans over 15 years of age have hypertension. We should have our blood pressure checked at least once a year. If our systolic reading is greater than 130 or our diastolic reading is greater than 85 we should consult our doctor about what to do next.
5. Maintain normal cholesterol
Abnormal cholesterol can put us at increased risk of heart disease. Have your cholesterol checked by a simple blood test and discuss the results with your doctor to see if you ate at increased risk and to address any abnormal results.
6. Prevent/control diabetes
People with diabetes are more likely to develop heart disease compared to those without diabetes. Preventing diabetes is possible with diet and exercise. However, if you do develop diabetes it is best if you detect it early before you develop any symptoms or complications by getting tested. Additionally, you should work closely with your doctor to control it well to prevent complications such as heart disease.
7. Stop smoking/avoid second hand smoke
The connection between cigarette smoking and heart disease is very clear. Tobacco smoking is a big no-no. If you cannot stop on your own seek help through your doctor
8. Visit your doctor regularly
Having a doctor who can help you navigate all of the potential issues are key in maintaining good heart health. Your doctor can help to guide you with all the above factors so you can know your risk and reduce your risk of heart disease if necessary.
9. Do not ignore chest pain
In the event that you cannot prevent heart disease, it is important to pay attention to important symptoms such as chest pain which may be a sign of heart disease. Prompt treatment can help to prevent complications and death from heart disease. Consult your doctor about nagging chest discomfort and consider going to the nearest hospital if you have sudden severe chest discomfort.
10. Do not ignore possible symptoms of a stroke
Although we are talking about heart disease, strokes account for just as much or more of the cardiovascular deaths in Jamaica. Early recognition and prompt treatment of strokes can prevent complications and death. Some typical symptoms include slurred speech, twisting of the face and weakness or numbness to one side of the face and limbs (arms and legs).