According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, killing more than 370,000 people each year. February is National Heart Month and a time to raise awareness of heart disease and the steps that can be taken to prevent it.
Heart disease is a term used to describe a number of conditions involving narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain or stroke. Many forms of heart disease can be prevented or treated with healthy lifestyle choices.
“Not smoking is the obvious place to start but taking part in a vigorous exercise program three to four times a week is also important,” says Dr. Marcin Bujak, M.D., interventional cardiologist, affiliated with Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital . “It’s also important to eat a healthy, balanced diet that is low in sodium.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 7 in every 10 people having their first heart attack have high blood pressure. “Hypertension is the number one cause of stroke in this country and is a major risk factor for heart attacks,” says Dr. Bujak. “If left untreated it can lead to congestive heart failure, where the pumping function of the heart gradually deteriorates.”
High cholesterol is another risk factor for heart attacks. Excess cholesterol over time leads to plaque buildup in arteries, which can directly lead to heart attack or stroke. “The good news is in many cases we can lower cholesterol levels with a change in diet and regular exercise,” says Dr. Bujak.
Dr. Bujak offers these simple tips to improving your heart health:
Dr. Bujak recommends an annual physical to help monitor the risk factors for heart disease. You can learn more about Memorial Hermann Heart and Vascular Institute-Southwest by visiting heart.memorialhermann.org.