February is American Heart Month. Richard Hogan, MD, doctor of internal medicine, pulmonary medicine and sleep medicine at Ministry Door County Medical Center, offers his tips for making choices that affect heart health and overall well-being.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, causing one in four deaths annually. “The good news is heart disease can often be prevented when people make healthy choices and manage their health conditions,” says Dr. Hogan.
Here are Dr. Hogan’s top six tips for heart health:
- Get moving. “Regular exercise is a huge factor in preventing heart disease,” he says. “It’s important to exercise 25-30 minutes three times a week, at a level at which you can’t keep up a regular conversation. More is even better.” For elderly patients, Dr. Hogan still prescribes regular movement. “5-15 minutes of movement, three times a day is a good target.”
- Healthy is as healthy eats. “The plain truth is, we live in a toxic food environment,” he says. “Temptations are always there, from fast food to the plate of treats in the break room at work.” Dr. Hogan advocates a high protein, high fiber diet that includes plenty of whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. “Our ancestors didn’t have the processed, high calorie foods available to us now, and we are paying the price with our health issues. Making lifestyle changes over time is the key to a healthier diet.”
- Get your Z’s. As a sleep specialist and provider at MDCMC’s Sleep Facility, Dr. Hogan knows that the risk of heart disease, arrhythmia, high blood pressure and stroke increase in patients suffering from sleep apnea. “Sleep apnea can be managed, and we achieve excellent results with patients in our sleep lab. Not only does treatment reduce cardiac risk, but the patient’s overall feelings of well-being are improved,” he says.
- See your doctor. A yearly checkup is essential to monitoring and managing risk factors such as high blood pressure. “I also recommend a lipid panel (blood test) every five years to check cholesterol, or more often if there are problems with cholesterol levels.” “Some patients may benefit from a Coronary Calcium Scan, a heart scan that can indicate the early stages of heart disease.”
- Check your family tree. Early heart disease in parents or siblings is a risk factor for heart disease, and it’s important to be aware of your family history in order to take appropriate preventative steps. “There’s interesting new research indicating that heredity may affect hormone levels of leptin and ghrelin, neurochemicals that make us feel satisfied or hungry. Since some individuals may be predisposed to consume more calories to feel satiated, it’s even more important for to manage their risk factors, such as weight and blood pressure.”
- Take a minute. Stress is a fact of life, but Dr. Hogan recommends the technique of taking “one minute for yourself” several times a day. “This might mean stretching, stopping to do some deep breathing, preparing a cup of tea, or just making a plan to do something you enjoy,” he says.