Heart Health and Heart Disease 101
February 10, 2023
The heart is arguably the most active organ in the body. It works nonstop to circulate blood, meanwhile maintaining a steady rhythm and controlling blood pressure. Unfortunately, the heart is also a common site for disease.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. This umbrella term refers to several conditions that can affect the heart. The good news is that many of them are preventable. Here’s what you should know about heart health and heart disease prevention.
What Is Heart Disease?
Conditions that affect the heart which fall under the term “heart disease” can include:
- Blood vessel conditions (including the most common form of heart disease, coronary artery disease, which can lead to heart attack)
- Irregular heartbeats, also known as arrhythmias
- Congenital heart defects, or conditions you’re born with
- Disease of the heart muscle
- Heart valve conditions
What Causes Heart Disease?
Since there are many types of heart disease, there are also varying causes behind each individual condition. For example, people are born with congenital heart defects, while coronary artery disease can be caused by lifestyle factors such as poor diet, smoking, and lack of exercise. Factors such as diabetes, emotional stress, excessive caffeine consumption, and high blood pressure can also contribute to irregular heartbeats.
Certain infections can also lead to heart conditions, while underlying health issues such as connective tissue disorders may be another cause. Finally, inherent risk factors such as advanced age, being male, and having a close relative who had heart disease (especially at an early age) also increase the risk for heart disease.
How Can You Keep Your Heart Healthy?
Even though there are some risk factors that may be beyond your control, there’s much you can do to promote heart health at any age. Here are a few of the most effective ways to care for your heart and reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Eat well. Your diet influences your cholesterol levels, which are an important risk factor for heart disease. Saturated and trans fats are more likely to clog your arteries, so be mindful to limit or avoid butter and heavily processed foods, which are often rich in them. Watch your sodium intake, too, as too much salt can cause high blood pressure — another contributor to heart disease. Whenever possible, prioritize nutrient-dense foods, like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean or plant-based proteins.
- Stay active. Exercise is an excellent way to care for your heart. Regular physical activity helps to prevent heart disease by keeping your heart muscle conditioned. Most adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week to maintain a healthy heart. Achieve this by getting active for at least 30 minutes, five days a week. Brisk walking is a simple option, but you can also get cardio exercise by swimming, cycling, dancing, or doing any other activity that keeps your heart rate elevated.
- Check in with your doctor. Your doctor is your best source for guidance on heart-healthy practices. This includes recommendations for screenings and, if necessary, medications to control your heart disease risk. Since everyone has different risk factors, it takes an expert to develop personalized guidance for each patient.
Whether you have a specific medical concern or you’re simply due for a regular checkup, turn to Morgan Medical Center. Our physicians offer compassionate care for patients of all needs. Learn more about our Cardiopulmonary services, and don’t forget you need a physician’s order requesting diagnostic testing from your primary care physician. Ask them to send your order to Morgan Medical Center via Fax at (706) 342-1718. If you do not have a primary care physician, we can help with that too! Schedule an appointment with Morgan Physician Services by calling (706) 438-1275.