Rehab Insights is a weekly blog written by Burke Rehabilitation professionals to offer practical information for patients, families and the community. Its goal is to educate the reader on relevant topics in rehabilitation, general health and wellness.

Stay Heart Healthy This February With These Tips

We know it’s February, because we see shiny paper hearts, Valentine’s Day cards and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates everywhere. It’s no coincidence that American Heart Month also occurs in February: What better gift could you offer your loved one than a healthy heart?

The organ we associate so closely with love and life is at risk for many of us. In fact, heart disease remains the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. One million people will have a heart attack or die from coronary heart disease this year. (Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics 2018 Update: A report from the National Heart Association)

A key indicator for heart disease is high blood pressure. According to new statistics from the American Heart Association, more than 100 million Americans--nearly half of all adults--have high blood pressure, or hypertension.  That increase comes partly because new guidelines (published in November) have redefined what constitutes hypertension. Now, a reading of 130 on top (or 80 on the bottom) is cause for action.

Since high blood pressure usually has no symptoms, it’s important to monitor it regularly. Your doctor may check it for you, or you can check it on one of the machines at your local pharmacy. There are also blood pressure cuffs that you can use at home.

If your blood pressure is high, you may need to take medication. But lifestyle changes are just as important in controlling, or preventing, hypertension.

The first of these changes is a healthful diet that is low in salt, fat and cholesterol, and high in fresh fruits and vegetables.

A second lifestyle goal is to be active. According to the National Center for    Health Statistics, adults should spend “at least 21/2 hours each week doing         physical activity that gets {your} heart pumping and leaves {you} a little breathless.” Currently, only about one in five adults meet these federal          guidelines.  So, another way to think about getting enough activity is to aim for a brisk 10-minute walk, three times a day.

A third lifestyle change to impact blood pressure and heart health is to stop smoking if you are a smoker, and to avoid second-hand smoke if you are not.

While eating healthy, being active and avoiding smoke are a first line of defense for heart health, you can further reduce the burden on your heart (and lungs, blood vessels and bones) by dropping extra pounds. Being overweight or obese is a major risk factor for heart disease. You Body Mass Index (BMI) is an expression of the amount of body fat you have, in proportion to your height and weight. A healthy BMI is 25 or below. You can use this Body Mass Calculator to determine if yours is in a healthy range. 

Lowering the amount of sugar you consume in your diet helps greatly with weight loss, and it can greatly lower your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Significantly, people with diabetes are two to four times more likely to die from heart disease.

Doubtless, you have heard these recommendations to eat healthier, exercise more and stop smoking, many times before. But the message this month comes straight from your heart:

If you don’t have heart disease, you can lower your chances of developing it by adopting a healthier lifestyle.  If you do have heart disease, you can take actions to control the risk of dying from it.

Burke offers cardiac rehabilitative services on an inpatient and outpatient basis. The inpatient program is tailored for individuals with heart disease and the post-operative cardiac patient. Our multidisciplinary program helps patients with heart disease recover faster and regain full, productive lifestyles through exercise, education and counseling.

On an outpatient basis, Burke’s physicians and clinical exercise physiologists work with a patient’s cardiologist to develop an extensive plan of care to address each patient’s unique needs. A clinical exercise physiologist reviews each patient’s specific goals in order to develop an optimal program to achieve the patient’s physical and educational needs.

Burke’s Adult Fitness Center is also open to help keep folks over 40 heart healthy. The Fitness Center is more than just a gym. It offers personal training sessions as well as yoga, adaptive yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi classes.  Click here to find out more.

It’s February.

Why not give your Valentine a healthy heart?

--Carol Vartuli

Photo by: Kristina Litvjak

Blog Archive

Please note

Burke's Rehab Insights blog is intended to provide general information about rehabilitation and other health care topics. It should not take the place of medical care. Burke staff cannot comment on individual medical cases or give medical advice.

Thank you.