February is not only the month to celebrate your valentine but it is also heart health month. We all want to live our healthiest best lives and we strive to do this through our lifestyle choices. According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Risk factors can include genetics, however lifestyle plays a large role in our heart health.
Heart Disease: the Silent Killer
The term Heart Disease encompasses a variety of conditions that affect the heart such as blood vessel diseases, coronary artery disease (CAD), heart rhythm problems like arrhythmias, and heart defects your born with. Coronary Artery Disease is the most common type of heart disease. CAD affects the flow of blood to the heart, if you have a decreased blood flow it can cause a heart attack or stroke.
Heart Disease has been also known as the silent killer. This is because for the most part you do not know the decreased blood flow to the heart is happening until the person suffers from the signs or symptoms of the heart attack, heart failure or arrythmias.
A heart attack can cause chest pains or discomfort, indigestion, heartburn, upper body discomfort, dizziness, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, upper back or neck pain, nausea or vomiting. Heart failure can cause shortness of breath, swollen legs, feet or ankles, and fatigue. Heart arrhythmias give you a fluttering feeling in your chest.
Be Aware of the Risk Factors!
Some risk factors for developing heart disease that we have all heard of include smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. However, there are other things that can affect our heart health including poor quality/ lack of sleep, constant stressful life situations, being sedentary and poor diet. While there is little that we can do to change our genetic disposition, focusing on improving our lifestyle choices can improve our heart health.
We can improve our sleep quality by having a nighttime routine, going to bed at certain time. Ensuring the room is dark, quiet and comfortable can promote good sleep. Disconnecting from blue light from electronics, avoiding consuming food, as well as avoiding caffeinated products 4 hours prior to bed can be helpful.
Stress is unavoidable but how we react and handle stress can be controlled. Meditation, breathing exercises, spending time with family and giving back to our community can be empowering. Exposure to sunlight and nature for as little as 15 minutes a day has shown to reduce stress and help increase physical activity.
You Are What You Eat
You are what you eat couldn’t be more true! Junk in equals junk out. Our standard American diet is making us sicker (and fatter) than ever. Eliminating highly refined and processed foods and oils can have a huge impact on reducing inflammation in our bodies. Something as simple as getting rid of sugar and white flour in our family’s diet and eating more vegetables, preferably organic is ideal and is a great first step to improving our health and instilling healthy eating habits in our children.
Just remember to be aware. Take care of yourself and your body to reduce your chances of being affected by heart disease. Know the signs. If you find yourself experiencing signs of a heart attack, heart failure or arrhytmias, do not wait, get yourself to a medical provider for an evaluation. Always remember. Heart disease affects women as well as men. Women try to be strong and dismiss their symptoms most of the time, this leads to more deaths in women by heart disease in the United States.
Take care of yourselves and each other. Visit us at the Oakland Park Wellness Center for more information on Heart Disease.
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About the Authors
Kim Kodzik and her wife have lived in Oakland Park/Wilton Manors area for 9 years. Kim raised two sons who now attend FAU (GO OWLS!), her alma mater. She earned her Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Nursing at FAU and brings over 27 years of experience to the clinic.
Erica Tercha, an Oakland Park local, is married and raises her family right here in Oakland Park. She is a Northeast Hurricane, FAU owl, and has been in retail health for the past 5 years. Erica earned her nursing degree from Barry University and her Masters in nursing from FAU. She helped organize the 1st Light of the World Health Fair and is a PTA board member at North Andrews Gardens Elementary.