It’s this simple: good nutrition and lifestyle play big roles in keeping your heart healthy. Piece of cake, right? Maybe that’s the problem since more
men die from heart disease than any other disease. At Epoch Health, we believe it’s essential to take a look at the risks and take action to reduce
these potential players in heart disease.
Being overweight or obese, eating fatty foods, smoking cigarettes and being inactive put you at greater risk for heart disease. Cholesterol levels and blood pressure are also important when considering risk factors. Our Free Men’s Health Screening allows our doctors to identify patients who are at risk of or have, elevated levels of cholesterol and other indicators of heart disease.
We know, and you know-- men aren't always the best examples of self-care. Here are six ways to help you improve your cardiac health:
Get a Checkup. An American Academy of Family Physicians survey found that more than half of men don’t get regular checkups -- and don’t know what their risk factors are. An annual checkup also gives men the opportunity to talk with their doctor about any concerns; erectile dysfunction, for instance, can be an early indicator of heart disease.
Eat well, but eat smart. Keeping trim is important for heart health, but many men skip meals, snack during the day, eat a big meal loaded with fat and calories at night, and, not surprisingly, gain weight. Not good. But with just a few small changes, like those found in our Take 5 Challenge, eating healthier can be pretty painless.
Break a sweat. Physical inactivity is a risk factor for heart disease, and unfortunately, about 50% of men don’t exercise regularly, according to a CDC survey. And if you think it’s all about the bench press, think again. Men need cardiovascular exercise for heart protection, which means brisk walking, jogging, or biking for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, at a pace vigorous enough to increase heart rate and break a sweat. It may sound like a lot, but you’re tough, you can do it.
Chill out. A lot of guys handle stress by, well, not handling it. Instead, they tend to bottle it up. Studies show that chronic stress, especially the kind that engenders fear or anger, is a risk factor for heart disease. Explore stress-reducing techniques such as deep breathing, relaxation exercises, meditation, and massage.
Quit smoking. Seriously. Tobacco use, including smokeless tobacco and low-tar and low-nicotine cigarettes, is a major cause of heart disease. Smoking is a tough habit to break. But so are you. Your doctor can help you choose a smoking cessation program that will work for you.
Listen to your doctor. When it comes to being proactive about their health and taking daily medications, men can get lax, especially with conditions that have no symptoms, like high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Your doctor prescribed it for a reason. (Of course, you should always talk to your doctor about any concerns you have or side effects you’re experiencing.)
Do you know the difference between “good” and “bad” cholesterol? Do you know your cholesterol levels? Do you care? You should.
High cholesterol puts men at greater risk for heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral artery disease. For many men, the risk from high cholesterol starts
in their 20s and increases with age.
High cholesterol tends to run in families, so obviously, genes play a role. But a variety of lifestyle choices -- including diet, activity, and body weight-- also affect cholesterol levels. The only way to know how high your cholesterol levels are is to get a simple blood test. Everyone over 20 should get a cholesterol test at least once every 5 years. If your numbers are high, your doctor may recommend the test more often.
How high is too high? The following increase the chances of heart disease:
- High LDL "bad" cholesterol (greater than 100 mg/dL)
- High triglycerides (greater than 150 mg/dL)
- Low HDL "good" cholesterol (less than 60 mg/dL)
- High blood pressure (greater than 120/80)
Your risk of having high cholesterol increases if:
- Your diet is high insaturated fat.These fats, found in meat and full-fat dairy products, raise LDL cholesterol.
- You eat foods containingtrans fats.These are artificially made fats found in partially hydrogenated oils. They raise LDL cholesterol
and lower HDL cholesterol -- exactly the wrong combination.
- You eat processed foods or foods high in carbohydrates.These types of foods have also been shown to increase LDL cholesterol.
- You are overweight or obese. Excess weight increases LDL and lowers HDL.
- You don’t get much exercise. Studies show that frequent exercise can boost HDL, the good cholesterol.
So what should you do? Get your levels tested, then talk to your doctor about any lifestyle modifications you need to make. At Epoch Health, we encourage
small, manageable and sustainable changes that will help lead you to a healthier lifestyle and a healthier you. It’s all part of our commitment to
providing comprehensive healthcare for men.
Epoch Health partners with local urology practices and other specialties in each of our markets, enabling us to provide the most comprehensive health services
to all our patients. Be assured, your Epoch Health doctor is committed to making sure you receive the care and services you need. For more information
on specialists in your area, check with your local Epoch Health clinic.
American Heart Association: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/
National Institute of Health: https://medlineplus.gov/magazine/issues/summer12/articles/summer12pg6-7.html