Everyone from the Honey Nut Cheerios bee to the actors playing a doctor on TV talk about the importance of heart health, but what does heart health actually mean? For many of us, the heart is a part of the body we often associate with extreme emotions of happiness, love or sorrow. Less often do we think of the heart as a literal element that’s critical for supplying oxygen and removing waste from the body. Hidden beneath layers of skin, muscle and bones, the heart leads the cardiovascular system, helping to regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels within the body.
A Heart-Centric Month
During the month of February, there is a multi-heart focus. In addition to the Valentine’s holiday on Feb. 14, the month is also a time for heart health celebrations such as American Heart Month, Go Red for Women and the Million Hearts heart attack and stroke prevention movement. While Valentine’s Day is a time to honor those we love, the other observances focus on the prevention of cardiovascular disease with the key player being the heart. If the heart is not working as it should, numerous health problems can occur including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke and heart attack. The commonality among these various cardiovascular diseases is the build-up of plaque within the blood vessels, arteries and heart. When sticky plaque builds up on the walls of the blood vessels and arteries blockages can result, restricting the body’s transport of necessary blood, oxygen and important nutrients throughout the body.
The Body’s Version of the Multi-Car Pile-Up
Imagine if you will, trying to get off an exit when there are multiple cars blocking the road. These stalled-out cars represent the sticky plaque that build up within the vessels and arteries. If the heart can no longer convey the oxygen and necessary nutrients to the body, problems severe enough to cause death can result. The good news is that many of the elements causing blockages are not inevitable. In fact, the American Heart Association says 80 percent of heart attacks and stroke are preventable. Ready to learn how?
Steps to Decrease the Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke
- Don’t smoke. If you are a smoker, try to quit.
- Eat a healthy diet that includes lean meats, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains
- Get regular exercise, even walking can help
- Ask your primary care doctor about tests for diabetes, cholesterol and triglycerides
- Maintain a healthy weight for your body frame
- Cut back to no more than one alcoholic drink each day
- Practice healthy stress management (exercise, meditation, journaling, meeting with friends)
The Importance of Regular Check-ups
Feeling overwhelmed? Creating and maintaining a healthy heart is easier than you think, and the primary care physicians at Summit Medical Center are here to help. Our primary care health services include convenient appointments with a primary care physician or nurse, outpatient care, access to on-site lab services and diagnostic imaging. We’re also here to help coordinate care to get to the right specialist within our network.
Summit Medical Center offers orthopaedics; ear, nose and throat; pediatrics, gastrointestinal; primary care; general surgery, pulmonary; and plastic surgery to the Casper, Wyoming, area. With cost-competitive, high-quality medical care and superior patient service, Summit Medical Center is changing the delivery of healthcare in Casper and beyond.