It is a troubling statistic! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease. Additionally, about 655,000 Americans die from heart disease each year – that is 1 in every 4 deaths.
With February being American Heart Month, Kaiser Permanente reminds everyone about the importance of caring for one’s heart by taking steps toward lifestyle changes that can lead to a healthier life. That’s especially important, since about half of all Americans have at least one of the top three risk factors for heart disease – high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking.
“Taking care of your heart should be an everyday commitment,” said Dr. Columbus Batiste, an interventional cardiologist with Kaiser Permanente Southern California. “Eating health-promoting food, exercising and making the right choices to protect your health are the main steps you should take to ensure a healthy heart.”
One way individuals with a high-risk of heart disease, or those who have been diagnosed with coronary artery disease, can help improve their medical condition is by switching to a plant-based diet, Dr. Batiste said.
“Focusing on what you’re eating for your health is a great start,” said Dr. Batiste, who is an interventional cardiologist and lifestyle advocate. “Increasing fiber-rich plant food will have great benefits to your health.
A plant-based diet is more nutritious and can be tasty as a traditional American diet that includes meat. For many of my patients, it’s been a lifesaver!”
One such patient is Derek Dewitt, who recently had stents placed inside a blocked artery supplying oxygen to his heart after feeling out of breath, fatigued and puzzled why he had such low energy despite being a physical education teacher? Following a consultation with Dr. Batiste, Dewitt agreed to make a lifestyle change and adopted a Plant-Based diet, a decision he doesn’t regret.
“I’ve never felt better,” he explained. “I’ve lost a lot of weight, I have more energy and I attribute most of that to my new diet.”
Even though he admits missing eating meat occasionally, Dewitt insists he has adapted well to his new diet and has no plans to revert to old habits. “My health is much more important to me,” he explained.
According to Dr. Batiste, following the guidelines below will go a long way toward protecting your heart.
To help keep your heart and blood vessels in good shape, consider eating heart-healthy plant-based food that includes fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains. If you’re unwilling to strictly adopt a plant-based diet, avoid red meat as much as possible, and focus on adding plant rich proteins like beans and whole grains.
Too tired to exercise? Think again! To strengthen your heart muscle, you should engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days. If you cannot do all 30 minutes at once, do 10 minutes at a time. Brisk walking, swimming or cycling are especially good for the heart.
Dr. Batiste cautions against doing too much exercise too soon, however. Make sure you start at a level you’re comfortable with and build up gradually. And, of course, check with your personal physician before starting a new exercise regimen.”
Keep a Healthy Weight
Did you know that lowering your weight by just 10% can make a significant difference in reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes?
It’s been proven that stress, anger, anxiety and depression can keep your blood pressure high and increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, and other illnesses.
We all know smoking is bad for our health and is a leading cause of heart disease and death. That is why it is never too late to quit. Kaiser Permanente offers tips on how you can quit smoking.
Beware of Alcohol
Limit alcohol intake to no more than 2 drinks a day for men, and one drink a day for women. Excessive consumption of alcohol is bad for your health, as it can raise your cholesterol level and blood pressure.
For more tips to keep your heart healthy, check out these Kaiser Permanente health and wellness resources.