Contributor: Dr. Staci-Marie Norman, PharmD, DCES
Have you ever wondered about your heart health? Are you doing everything you can to keep your heart healthy? These are very important questions, so lets get them answered.
Why should you be concerned about your heart health? Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans. One out of three Americans will die of heart disease, which includes both heart attacks and strokes. Unbelievably, 60% of Americans will suffer from a major heart or stroke-related event in their lifetime. The leading cause of death in people with diabetes is heart disease. These statistics are cause for great concern. But the good news is that everyone has the power to change their own odds! You can do this by knowing some very important numbers and making a few lifestyle changes.
The American Heart Association has broken the most important changes down into seven steps, which they call “The Simple 7.”
- Manage your blood pressure: The American Diabetes Association and American Heart Association say the goal for most people with diabetes should be a blood pressure of 130/80 or lower. If your blood pressure is elevated, work to reduce it through healthy diet, exercise, stress reduction, smoking cessation and medication if necessary. Having a healthy blood pressure is important because when it is elevated, there is stress on the blood vessels that can lead to overstretching and damage over time. Damaged blood vessels are prone to clot formation which can lead to blockages causing heart attacks or strokes.
- Watch Your Cholesterol: Most people have heard about total cholesterol, but this is made up of a few different components. LDL cholesterol is the primary trouble maker in the cholesterol family. High LDL levels in the blood can build lesions on damaged blood vessel surfaces and lead to a blockage. Make sure you are getting your cholesterol checked regularly. You can help improve your cholesterol profile by maintaining a healthy weight and being active. There are also medications that can help! For most people with diabetes a statin medication is typically recommended based on age and cardiovascular disease risk. Statin medications have been proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease progression.
- Eat Better: We’ve all heard this one before, but what does it really mean! For starters, you should eat more fruits and vegetables. They are low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Eat whole-grain foods, which provides you with more fiber and fills you up with fewer calories. Also, fiber can help lower your cholesterol. Eat fish at least twice a week, and add lean meats and skinless poultry to make up the rest of your protein needs. Fish has omega-3 fatty acids, which may lower your risk of death from heart disease. Cut back on saturated and trans fats. Saturated fats are any fat that comes from an animal, like butter, fat in milk, and the marbling in a nice steak. Trans fats are “man-made,” like vegetable shortening. Strive to eliminate these fats.
- Get Active: This is so important for weight management, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose management, as well as stress reduction. It is recommended that you move at least 150 minutes per week. If you break that down, it is 30 minutes five days a week. Activity doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon, start with a brisk walk through your neighborhood, or run around the back yard playing soccer with your kids. Make activity fun, so the whole family participates!
- Lower Your Weight: If you carry a little extra “fluff,” you are not alone. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. But excess fat tissue is very bad for the heart, especially if it is located around your midsection. You can significantly reduce your heart disease risk by losing weight and keeping it off, and even 5-10 pounds can make a difference by lowering blood pressure and blood glucose levels.
- Manage Blood Sugar: Out of range blood sugar can complicate and worsen heart disease. Some diabetes medications have been proven to reduce blood glucose and reduce the risk of heart disease. Speak with your healthcare team about medications such as GLP-1 agonists or SGLT-2 inhibitors.
- Stop Smoking: If you smoke, you significantly increase your heart disease risk. Smoking is also one of the top reasons for early death. Smoking damages your entire circulatory system, heart, and lungs.
If you are interested in more information about “The Simple 7” go the American Heart Association website. You can even take a short health assessment to help get you started. The key to a healthy heart is in your reach!
Dr. Staci-Marie Norman, PharmD, DCES received her bachelors from Purdue University (’94) and her Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Oklahoma (’96). In 2000 Dr. Norman added to her credentials by becoming a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist. She is currently the Clinical Coordinator and staff pharmacist for Martin’s Pharmacy. Dr. Norman is a national faculty member for the American Pharmacist Association, teaching certificate programs in both diabetes and cardiovascular disease. She serves on the advisory board that oversees development and revision of these programs. Along with teaching and development responsibilities for APhA, Dr. Norman serves as a peer reviewer for research grants and publication submission. Dr. Norman has also spoken for Abbott, Bayer, Lilly, Mannkind, and Lifescan as a diabetes specialist.