Can you name the #1 killer in the United States? Many are surprised to learn that the leading cause of death in the United States isn’t cancer - it’s heart disease.It’s also a leading cause of disability, and costs Americans billions of dollars each year in medical and treatment expenses. With all of these points in mind, living a heart healthy life is extremely important for all people, at all ages.
Heart health also becomes more important during the summer months, when temperatures climb and force our hearts to work harder. Patients with pre-existing heart issues in particular need to be careful when temperatures rise - but even a healthy heart can be put under serious stress if we don’t take steps to protect it.
With temperatures climbing in Pittsburgh, now is the time to begin making heart healthy decisions that not only make your summer easier, but will help prevent/manage heart disease, heart attack, and related conditions. The following are our team’s top tips for making the summer - and the seasons to come - more heart healthy:
- Talk to your doctor. Regular doctor’s exams are important for everyone, whether or not they have a known heart condition. For starters, a doctor’s appointment is the perfect time for healthcare professionals to catch developing problems with your blood pressure and cholesterol. It’s also the perfect time for you to discuss your family history of heart problems, your medical history, your medications, and your risk factors with an expert. Each of these factors will affect your risk of heart disease, as well as your heart’s health as a whole. Discussing them with a doctor will help you take appropriate action to address each them. (And depending on your individual needs, doctors may provide additional weather-related advice to ensure the summer heat doesn’t ruin your plans by negatively affecting your heart!)
- Track what you eat, and drink lots of water. Our diets are critical in addressing heart health needs, both long-term and seasonally. One of the best weapons in combating heart disease is eating a heart healthy diet that includes moderate alcohol consumption. As for the bit about drinking water - not only is water the best way to stay hydrated, but according to the American Heart Association, if you’re well hydrated, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard. And the less strain you put on your heart on a hot day, the better!
- Get moving - but be careful. The American Heart Association recommends that adults get 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per day, at least 5 times a week. Even breaking up that 30 minutes of walking into smaller increments can make a big difference for your heart health! However, it’s important to balance your activities with habits that respect your body’s limits, especially in the summer. For example, to protect your heart you should avoid participating in intense activities between noon and 3 p.m., when the sun is at its strongest. If you do find yourself outside on a hot day, make sure that you're dressed appropriately for it! The right clothing will help you stay as cool as possible. Most importantly: don’t be afraid to take breaks. Exercise and activity in the heat requires just as many breaks as regular activity and exercise - more, in fact! Any time you feel worn out, dizzy, or just generally “off,” go ahead and slow down or stop altogether, to ensure you don’t push your body into a heart or heat related emergency.
These tips will go a long way in helping you enjoy the season in a heart healthy manner. In addition to following them, however, you’ll want to watch for any signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke any time you head outside, and address symptoms accordingly. Additionally, if you are unsure about the state of your heart health, or about how to handle the heat in a heart healthy manner, we recommend making an appointment with your doctor at Genesis Medical before making any healthy living decisions. We are more than happy to ensure that you receive advice and guidance on making lifestyle changes that will not only improve your heart health, but your overall health and wellness.