Heart & Vacular Services
Starting today there are several things you can do to prevent or reduce the likelihood that you will develop heart disease. Those steps break down into two categories – lifestyle changes and possible doctor-prescribed drug therapies.
- Lifestyle Changes
Are you overweight? A smoker? Diabetic? Sedentary? Learn how taking even small steps to change those facts can greatly reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
- Lose weight. If you are carrying excess weight losing just 10% of your current weight can greatly lower your likelihood of developing heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol. In addition to knowing your current weight you should calculate your body mass index (BMI), learn your ideal weight, and measure your waist circumference. Men whose waists measure more than 40 inches are considered overweight and women with waist measurements of greater than 35 inches are considered overweight. Measure from your naval around your waist using a tape measure.
- Begin exercising. Exercising at a moderately intense heart rate for 30-60 minutes per day 3-5 times per week is a great way to both lose weight and reduce your risk for heart disease. Your heart is a muscle and like any other muscle, it works more efficiently the more you use it. With regular exercise you can also other reduce other risk factors for heart disease such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, stress, and high cholesterol. Learn more about our exercise and wellness classes.
- Stop smoking. Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for developing heart disease for several reasons:
- the chemicals in cigarettes or other tobacco products can cause hardening and narrowing of your heart’s arteries
- nicotine increases your heart rate and blood pressure
- carbon monoxide reduces the level of oxygen in your blood which makes your heart work harder
Within 12 months of quitting smoking you will be much healthier and your risk of developing heart disease will drop significantly. View our calendar for smoking cessation classes.
- Eat more healthfully. The American Heart Association recommends that people with greater risk for developing heart disease adopt a “DASH” (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. The diet outlines heart healthy foods including low-fat, low-cholesterol, and reduced sodium foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and legumes. Learn more about the DASH diet and our healthy recipes.
- Get an annual screening or physical. Certain forms of heart disease may not have any symptoms so it’s important to get a regular check-up or health screening. You should get:
- your blood pressure checked at least every 6 months
- your cholesterol levels checked every 5 years (and more often if you have a family history of heart disease or additional risk factors)
- your blood glucose level tested every 3 years to determine your risk for developing diabetes
Sign up for our conventient health screening email reminder service.
- Manage your diabetes. If you have diabetes it’s important that you keep your blood glucose levels consistently within a safe, healthy range to help reduce the likelihood of developing heart disease. Uncontrolled high blood glucose levels causes blood vessels to become harder and thicker, making it more difficult for blood to flow correctly so the heart muscle has to work harder to do its job. The American Diabetes Association has found that adults with diabetes die from heart disease between 2 and 4 times more often than their non-diabetic peers. Improve your heart health by:
- following your doctor’s prescribed daily blood glucose testing schedule (on average four times daily)
- logging your blood sugar readings either online or in a paper journal
- working with a diabetes educator to ensure you understand the testing process and how to read your test results
- taking insulin or other diabetes medication as prescribed
- adopting a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet as prescribed by your doctor or nurse educator
- getting regular exercise and sleep
- Drug Therapies
Making lifestyle changes may not be enough to prevent or reduce your likelihood for developing heart disease. Your physician or cardiologist may recommend that you begin taking medication for one or more factors that make you vulnerable to getting heart disease. There are medications to:
- lower your LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels
- help you lose weight
- lower your risk of heart attack following previous heart-related surgery
- help your heart contract harder and slow down some arrhythmias
- stop production of chemical that narrows blood vessels and helps control high blood pressure (ACE Inhibitor)
- slows heartbeat, lower blood pressure (beta blockers)
- relax blood vessels, stops chest pain (nitrates)
- relaxes blood vessels (calcium channel blocker)
- reduce fluids in the body (diuretics)
- break up blood clots in the coronary artery during a heart attack (thrombolytic agents)
Your Mercy Heart and Vascular Center cardiologist will only prescribe medication after a thorough examination and consultation to get critical health information including your family medical history. Take all medication as prescribed. Drugs can be accompanied by side effects and should only be used under a doctor’s prescription and oversight.