Step out, alter diet to improve heart health

Posted Monday, Jun. 17, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Anyone can be at risk for heart disease. It’s the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States, but it is one of the diseases we can actually help prevent, explains Dr. Nancy Georgekutty, an independently practicing primary care physician on the medical staff of Methodist Mansfield Medical Center. “One of the easiest things you can do is to get moving. Thirty minutes of walking a day or even dancing can improve your health by reducing your risk for heart diseases and improving your blood pressure. It’s one small step everyone can do.”

According to Georgekutty, making time in your life for your health is the single most important thing you can do for yourself. A significant number of neighbors, friends, and families in our community are in danger of developing heart disease. Among people in our community, more than 30 percent are at risk for high cholesterol and 40 percent for high blood pressure, according to a recent health assessment by Methodist Mansfield.

People can also lower their risk of heart disease with simple lifestyle changes. Georgekutty recommends watching your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and working to improve those numbers if they are not normal; maintaining an ideal body weight and choosing a diet low in saturated fats, trans fats and sodium and high in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables; cutting back on salt; and quitting smoking.

If you are at an increased risk of heart disease because of family history or other genetic factors, early detection is especially important. You may choose to be screened for heart disease sooner or more often than people who are at an average risk. Georgekutty recommends discussing your risk factors with your personal physician, as well as learning the symptoms of a heart attack.

“It’s important to understand that all heart attacks are not sudden and intense. Some can start out slowly with only mild pain or discomfort,” Georgekutty explains. Chest discomfort, shortness of breath, back, neck or jaw pain, discomfort in one or both arms, nausea or vomiting, light-headedness or dizziness, or unusual fatigue are symptoms and warning signs of a heart attack, according to the American Heart Association. Listen to your body, and if you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately. “Don’t wait to call for help — 911 is the fastest way to receive lifesaving treatment,” Georgekutty says.

Pledge yourself to better heart health. A little physical exercise can go a long way in life. “Exercising increases oxygen and blood flow to muscles, reducing tension and stress. It helps to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, build strong bones, increase heart and lung capacity and reduce fluid retention,” says Georgekutty. “Exercise also causes the release of endorphins, nature’s mood elevators.”

An upcoming community event — Run with Heart — offers individuals a fun opportunity to improve heart health while raising heart disease prevention awareness, helping those suffering from heart disease, and remembering those who have died from the disease. The event is Sept. 14 and sponsored by Methodist Mansfield and the city of Mansfield. Participants choose from a chip-timed half marathon, 5K or one-mile fun run or walk.

“The run and walk through the city embodies the spirit of giving and determination to improve your health,” says Georgekutty.

Log on to Pledge yourself to better heart health today.

- Texas law prohibits hospitals from practicing medicine. The physicians on the Methodist Health System medical staff are independent practitioners who are not employees or agents of Methodist Health System.

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