Ask A Doc: How You Can Prevent Heart Disease

by Hannah Smith
Rochester Regional Health

Question: February 2nd is recognized as National Wear Red Day, to bring awareness to women’s heart disease. So what should I do?

Answer: According to the American Heart Association, deaths from heart disease have been declining steadily for several decades but it is still the leading cause of death in the U.S.  It is important to see your doctor annually to have baseline tests done to monitor indicators of heart health. Make your doctor aware of any concerns you have and any family history of heart disease. There are also steps you can take on a daily basis to improve your heart health.

Get up and move! Set a target goal of reaching 30mins of exercise per day.  Begin with a few minutes each day of low to moderate activities, and then build to more lengthy and intense work outs. Turn activities of daily living into exercise. Take the stairs instead of the elevator at work. Choose to park at the back of the parking lot so you can get a few extra steps in while running errands.  Several small changes add up to more movement by the end of the day!

In addition to fitness, nutrition plays a huge role in heart health. The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans are released every 5 years. They are created from evidence based research and are developed to help Americans make healthy lifestyle and dietary choices.  The general recommendations from the 2015 guidelines that help promote heart health include decreasing intake of sodium, saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol and refined sugars. One significant way this can be achieved, is by avoiding processed foods. When choosing foods to eat, it is important to choose a variety of nutrient dense whole foods. Myplate is a tool developed by the USDA to help determine a balanced diet.  More details of these recommendations can be found at Overall it is important to consume a varied diet, not excluding any one food group or consuming others in excess, to obtain all the nutrients your body needs to function healthfully. While all these recommendations are a good starting point, it is important to remember each individual has different health needs. You should consult your doctor and a Registered Dietitian if you are not sure what you should be consuming to meet your nutrition needs.