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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Heart Disease...How to prevent it and what to do if you've already got it...

There are many causes and kinds of heart disease. As you all know by know I probably contracted a virus that caused my congestive heart failure (CHF). But you can also get it and other heart diseases from having uncontrolled high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, alcohol abuse, diabetes, arryhthmias, inflammation of the heart or disorders of the heart valve.

Prevention is the key to treatment of heart disease. A healthy lifestyle includes exercise, proper nutrition, stopping smoking, controlling diabetes and high blood pressure. Of course you can't prevent a genetic predisposition to heart disease. An aspirin a day is recommended to decrease the risk of heart disease, but only on the recommendation of a doctor. A drink a day for a woman, or two drinks a day for a man may decrease the risk of heart disease, but a non-drinker should not start drinking. Excessive drinking is bad for the heart. Personally since being diagnosed I only drink a glass of wine on occasion, even though my doctor said that I could safely have a glass a day. He also said that a beer every once in a while would be fine, but to avoid hard liquors.
What are the symptoms of heart disease? Typically chest pain, pain in the back, pain running down the arm, shortness of breath, upper abdominal pain, nausea, indigestion, fatigue or generalized weakness.

How is heart disease diagnosed? The doctor will order an EKG, this measures the electrical activity of the heart. They will also probably order an echocardiogram, this measures the efficiency of the heart by measuring the ejection fraction. Normally when the heart beats it pushes 60% of the blood in the ventricle out to the body. They may also do a CT scan to take detailed images of the blood vessels to determine whether coronary artery disease is present. Finally, they may order a heart catheterization. This is when a cardiologist inserts and threads a small tube through the groin or arm into the coronary arteries, where a dye is injected to visualize the arteries on an x-ray. If blockages are found they may be treated with angioplasty or a stent.

So what to do once you've been diagnosed with heart disease? Stop smoking, keep your alcohol intake to a minimum, exercise, keep your cholesterol, blood pressure and/or diabetes under control, eat a low sodium diet, eat more grains, fruits and vegetables. Try using My Fitness Pal (website or app) to keep track of what you eat (fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbs, fiber, etc) and your exercise. Your doctor will recommend medications to allow for more efficient heart function. These may include beta blockers (allows the heart to beat more efficiently by reducing the heart rate), calcium channel blockers (also used to control heart rate) and nitroglycerin (dilates blood vessels to help control angina).
The suggestions below will help prevent or treat heart disease:
Eat lots of fruits and veggies
Eat unsalted nuts, whole-grains and dried beans
Don't eat too much sugar (even just one sugary drink a day can raise your risk of a heart attack by 20%)
Don't eat too much fat
Don't eat salty snacks
Don't drink too much alcohol
Don't smoke
Avoid empty calories
Avoid refined carbohydrates
Avoid processed foods
Avoid processed meats (especially hot dogs, sausage, bacon, salami, other deli meats, these raise your risk of a heart attack by 21%)
Cut back on red meat (eat red meat only 2-3 days per week)
Try to keep stress levels under control

I've pretty much stopped eating pickles, olives, pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, corned beef, bacon, deli meat, sausage, ham, soy sauce, fish sauce, bbq sauce, potato chips, instant pudding, most cheeses and any commercially prepared salads such as potato salad and coleslaw. There are reduced sodium products for some of these – but check the sodium content.

Reduced sodium, lower sodium or light just mean that there is less, it doesn't mean that there isn't any or that it's safe for you to eat if you need to be on a reduced sodium diet. Usually safe are sodium-free, very low sodium, low sodium, and no salt added.

Here are the definitions to help you understand what the above terms actually mean:
Sodium-Free – Less than 5 mg of sodium per serving
Very Low Sodium – less than 35 mg per serving
Low Sodium – less than 145 mg per serving
Reduced or Less Sodium – the product has at least 25% less sodium than the original product
Light – a product has at least 50% less sodium or 1/3 fewer calories or 50% less fat than the original product
No Salt Added or No Salt – no salt has been added in the preparation of the product

Remember that you should probably eat between 1,500 and 2,000 mg of sodium per day. The government recommends that adult Americans eat less than 2,300 mg per day of sodium, with the average American consuming about 3,435 mg per day. That's a lot of salt! We only need to eat between 180 - 500 mg a day to keep our bodies functioning properly

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