Anyone can be at risk for heart disease. It’s the leading cause of death for both men and women in Mansfield, as well as in the United States. It’s also a disease that we can actually help to prevent and control, explains Alan Taylor, MD, independently practicing cardiologist on the medical staff of Methodist Mansfield Medical Center. “Making time in your life for your health is the single most important thing you can do for yourself,” he says. “Even in a short month’s time, we can do a lot to take better care of our heart. One of the easiest things you can do is to get moving.”
Starting this week — and in the weeks that follow — aim for a total of at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking. How you work in 150 minutes a week is up to you.
“It all adds up, whether you aim for 10,000 steps over the course of the day, briskly walk for 10 minutes three times a day, or enjoy an aerobic activity for 30 minutes at a time,” Dr. Taylor explains. “Moderate exercise increases oxygen and blood flow to muscles, which reduces tension and stress. It helps to lower blood pressure, build strong bones, increase heart and lung capacity, and reduce fluid retention. It also causes the release of endorphins, nature’s mood elevators.”
People can also lower their risk of heart disease with simple lifestyle changes. Dr. Taylor recommends scrutinizing labels. “Unhealthy fats and cholesterol can clog arteries, salt can raise blood pressure, and sugar can pack on pounds,” he explains. “To avoid these risks, read nutrition labels while you’re grocery shopping. Look for foods with unsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, and low percentages of sodium and sugar.”
Choose plenty of foods without nutrition labels — fresh fruits and vegetables. Naturally low in fat and sodium and high in fiber, they give your diet a nutritional boost, help to fill you up, and help to prevent high blood cholesterol.
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. Dr. Taylor recommends discussing your risk factors with your personal physician.
“Know your numbers. If you don’t know your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers, make an appointment this week with your doctor to have them checked. Having high blood pressure or too much LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) in your blood can put you at risk for heart disease,” he says.
Being overweight can make heart disease more likely. “Your physician can advise you on lifestyle changes or medicines to help you achieve heart-healthy cholesterol and blood pressure numbers,” he adds.
If you smoke, vow to quit. Smoking harms the heart as well as the lungs, and it also hurts your family and friends because of exposure to secondhand smoke. “Quitting smoking is an act of love not only for your heart — but also for all the hearts that surround you,” Dr. Taylor says.
It’s also heart-smart to know the symptoms of a heart attack. “Not all heart attacks are sudden and intense. Some start slowly with only mild pain or discomfort,” Dr. Taylor 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 all 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 or drive yourself — 911 is the fastest way to receive lifesaving treatment,” Dr. Taylor says.
Pledge yourself to better heart health today, and share your heart-healthy habit with a loved one by inviting him or her to join you on a walk. An upcoming community event — Run with Heart — offers a fun opportunity to improve your heart health while raising awareness of heart disease prevention, helping those suffering from heart disease, and remembering those who have died from the disease.
Run with Heart is Saturday, October 11, and is sponsored by Methodist Mansfield Medical Center, the city of Mansfield, and Mansfield ISD. Participants choose from a chip-timed half marathon, 5K, or one-mile fun run or walk. Proceeds benefit the Tarrant County American Heart Association and cardiology services at the hospital.
“The run and walk through the city of Mansfield embodies the spirit of giving and determination to improve your health,” says Dr. Taylor.
Log on to MansfieldRunWithHeart.org, and step out for 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.
By Angel Biasatti
Director Community Relations and Marketing
Methodist Mansfield Medical Center