Serving the Lowcountry and Coastal Empire of Georgia and South Carolina.
Tuesday, January 30, 2024
Having a healthy heart is essential to long-term wellness. Among the most important organs for sustaining life, your heart has the immensely important job of pumping blood to the rest of your body. Unfortunately, it’s also a common site for disease.
The good news is that we have several key metrics for heart health, and tracking them consistently allows us to intervene if needed. Here are a few of the most important measures to consider.
Let’s start with an obvious one: blood pressure. This measures the force of blood pushing against your artery walls. When it’s too high, your heart has to work harder to pump blood, putting strain on the muscle and increasing your risk for heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and other serious conditions. Blood pressure recommendations vary by age group and race. Aim for your target range by eating a well-balanced diet, enjoying regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and managing stress.
Another direct indicator of heart health is your levels of cholesterol, or the waxy substance found in your blood. The higher your cholesterol, the greater your risk of developing fatty deposits that could block blood flow, resulting in heart attack or stroke. As with blood pressure, a healthy diet and regular exercise are the best ways to control cholesterol levels. (Find more detailed dietary tips for reducing your cholesterol here.)
BMI refers to body mass index, and is a measure of total body fat based on your height and weight. A high BMI can increase your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. Eating a nutrient-rich diet, practicing portion control, and exercising regularly are strategies for achieving and maintaining a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9, which is considered the Healthy Weight range.
Having high blood sugar can damage your body’s major organs over time, including the heart, kidneys, and nerves. It’s also the precursor to diabetes, which has its own detrimental effect on cardiovascular health. Keep your blood sugar levels in check by exercising regularly, limiting processed foods and carbohydrates, and prioritizing fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.
Unlike the metrics listed thus far, smoking is more of a yes/no question than a numerical range. If you’re a former smoker, learning about your past smoking habits — including the number of years smoked and packs per day — can help your doctor form a more detailed picture of your cardiovascular risk. If you don’t smoke, continue to avoid it to keep your heart healthy. If you currently smoke, talk to your doctor about the best smoking cessation program for you.
Diets are as complex as people themselves, with factors like allergies, intolerances, socioeconomic conditions, and of course, personal preferences influencing what we eat. But there are ways to take a numerical approach to diet: Some people with high blood pressure may need to monitor sodium intake, for instance, while others may count calories or restrict carbohydrates. In general, prioritizing whole, fresh foods while restricting or avoiding processed foods can support heart health.
Fitness trackers have made it easy to track steps and other physical activity, but you don’t have to use data if you don’t want to. Experts recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. In other words, aim to get moving for at least half an hour per day, five days a week, and add in some resistance exercises on the other days.
While these metrics can help us monitor cardiovascular health, they’re not the only aspects of wellness that matter. Our physicians can help you track the key data listed here, as well as discuss other areas of health that could go overlooked when it comes to protecting your heart. To schedule an appointment, call our office at 912.691.3600 or book with us online.
Whether you are looking for a primary care doctor or a pediatrician, or another medical specialist, SouthCoast Health has you covered with its wide range of world-class healthcare services, available throughout the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry. SouthCoast Health has 120 physicians and medical professionals in 18 locations in Savannah, Richmond Hill, Pooler, Rincon, Baxley, Hilton Head, Hinesville, and Statesboro. SouthCoast Health offers comprehensive medical services including: Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Allergy and Asthma, Cardiology, Endocrinology, Eye Care, Imaging, Infectious Diseases, Nephrology, Neurology, Physical Therapy, Podiatry, Sleep Medicine, Surgery, Clinical Trial Research Studies, Diabetic Self-Management Training Sessions, Dietetic Counseling, Laboratory Services, Massage Therapy, Optical Shop, Pharmacy, and Urgent Care.