Keeping your heart healthy. So much of it comes down to lifestyle choices. Of course, some risk factors such as age and family history cannot be changed. But research tells us that small lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of heart disease and can even reverse the symptoms of heart failure.
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Heart failure means that the heart is unable to meet the circulatory needs of the body. With the right treatment and personal care, heart failure patients can maximize their quality of life and increase longevity.
In addition to the doctor’s treatment with medications and other therapies, here are some of the key lifestyle adjustments from our heart failure specialists, patients with heart failure can make to improve their overall health and decrease the risk of further heart damage:
Stop smoking. Smokers (including cigarette, pipe, and cigar smokers) have more than twice the risk of a heart attack than nonsmokers. Smoking is also the biggest risk factor for sudden cardiac death. Even one to two cigarettes a day greatly increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular conditions.
Reach and maintain your healthy weight. The more fat you have, the harder your heart has to work. How a person’s weight is distributed also is important. People who carry their weight in the middle have a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease, compared to people who carry their weight elsewhere. Waist measurements are one way to determine fat distribution. For men it is recommended that waist circumference be less than 40 inches. For women, recommended waist circumference is less than 35 inches.
Control high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes. Good control of these diseases will increase quality of life and decrease the likelihood of adverse events. Your target blood pressure is set by your healthcare provider. In order to achieve this goal, you should follow a low-salt diet. If you have diabetes, a low carbohydrate diet should be followed. A low-fat diet will help control your cholesterol. All medication prescribed by your provider for these conditions should be taken as instructed without interruption.
Exercise regularly. Exercising helps improve how well the heart pumps blood through your body. A good goal is moderate exercise 30 minutes a day, 5 days per week. Activity and exercise help reduce many risk factors for heart disease. You can lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, reduce stress and achieve or maintain a healthy body weight. See if your insurance covers cardiac rehabilitation to jump-start your program.
Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol can cause heart failure and can lead to increased blood pressure and stroke. It is also linked to irregular heartbeats, obesity and cancer.
Manage stress. Practice relaxation techniques. Learn how to manage your time. Set realistic goals. Try new relaxation techniques such as guided imagery, massage, Tai Chi, meditation or yoga.
Work with your health care provider: Write down any questions you may have and bring them with you to your appointments. Always bring a list of your current medications and review them with your provider to ensure accuracy and optimization of your therapy. In addition, you might ask if cardiac rehabilitation is right for you. Make it a priority to follow up with your heart failure provider as directed.
Follow these guidelines and you will feel better and help to keep heart failure symptoms at bay.