How to keep your heart healthy

The human heart can be compared to a car engine: both are power supplies that keep bodies moving. The heart acts as a pump that drives blood to the body's organs, tissues, and cells. The blood pumped by the heart supplies oxygen and nutrients to each cell and collects carbon dioxide and waste substances produced by those cells. But if the blood flow to the heart slows or stops or the rhythm of the heart beats is life-threatening. As with a car engine, how your heart is treated will determine how long it will work and in what way.
"Many people take better care of their cars than their bodies," says Dr. Denton A. Cooley, founder of the Texas Heart Institute. “They are concerned with changing the oil, performing regular tuning and using the appropriate gasoline. But when it comes to your own body, you feed it with foods that contain a lot of fat and salt, smoke, and don't exercise regularly. Medical advances cannot eradicate cardiovascular diseases. Good health is highly dependent on people doing their part. "
Cardiovascular diseases are those that affect the heart or blood vessels. Although steps have been taken to inform people of its causes and prevention, they remain the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Cardiovascular disease kills one person every 39 seconds in the United States, that is, nearly 2,200 people per day, more than cancer, lower and chronic respiratory disease, and accidents combined. New studies and treatment methods have reduced the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease but not the number of people affected.

Risk factors and lifestyle

Certain factors significantly influence a person's likelihood of cardiovascular disease. They are the so-called «risk factors». Some risk factors can be controlled but others cannot.
"Although it is not possible to control risk factors such as sex, age and heredity, it is possible to change risk factors related to lifestyle, in order to prevent or delay the onset of cardiovascular disease," he says. Dr. Cooley. "Medical studies show that it is possible to reduce cardiovascular risk if you eat a diet low in fat, salt and cholesterol, do not consume any type of tobacco, exercise at least three times a week, maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure is lowered. "


Exercise — or lack of exercise — plays an important role in our health. Studies show that we should do aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking, jogging, or cycling) at least three times a week for 30 minutes to strengthen our hearts. In addition, medical studies show that short periods of physical exercise that together add up to 30 minutes per day are as beneficial to health as 30 continuous minutes of exercise.
"One of the best steps we can take to improve health is to eat low-fat foods and exercise regularly," says Dr. Cooley. "Exercise burns calories, reduces appetite, blood pressure and stress and raises HDL (the" good cholesterol ") levels. It also improves the figure and makes us feel better. It is almost too simple.


It is also possible to reduce cardiovascular risk simply by implementing a few sensible dietary changes. Heart-healthy habits include limiting your daily salt intake to less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium. (People with high blood pressure may need to further limit their salt intake — about 1,500 milligrams per day.)
The diet should consist mainly of fruit, vegetables, cereals, lean meats, and fish. It is advisable to reduce the consumption of fat (especially saturated fat) and cholesterol (fatty red meats, whole milk, cheeses made with whole milk, eggs, cream-based dishes and desserts that contain a lot of fat).
"It is possible to lower your blood cholesterol level by five to ten percent by eating a heart-healthy diet, that is, consuming more dietary fiber and less fat and cholesterol," says Dr. Cooley. "When we eat foods rich in fiber, we feel satisfied and we eat less food high in calories, fat and cholesterol."

Alcohol consumption

Alcohol consumption also affects the heart. Medical studies show that daily consumption of a moderate amount of alcohol protects against cardiovascular disease and heart attacks. According to experts, moderate consumption is an average of one or two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. A drink is defined as 1.5 fluid ounces (44 ml) of spirits with an alcoholic strength of 40 ° ( 80 proof ) (such as American or Scottish whiskey, vodka, gin, etc.), 1 fluid ounce (30 ml ) of spirits with an alcoholic strength of 50 ° ( 100 proof ), 4 fluid ounces (118 ml) of wine, or 12 fluid ounces (355 ml) of beer. But exceeding moderate alcohol consumption can lead to heart-related problems such as high blood pressure, stroke, irregular heartbeat, and cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease) . Also, a typical drink has between 100 and 200 calories. Calories from alcohol often increase body fat, which in turn can increase cardiovascular risk. If you don't drink, don't start. If you consume alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.


Stress is another factor that can affect the heart. People suffering from cardiovascular disease often report feeling heart pain during emotional stress situations. You are also more likely to have a heart attack in times of stress, because the heart speeds up and blood pressure increases. When this happens, the heart needs more oxygen. Stress can also damage arteries due to increased hormone production and increased blood flow during the stress response. As the walls of the arteries heal, they increase in thickness, thus facilitating the accumulation of plaque, which narrows the artery. The researchers believe that stress can worsen heart disease.

Importance of being aware of our health

“Most of us consider ourselves healthy if we don't feel symptoms of illness. However, sometimes the first apparent symptom of cardiovascular disease is a heart attack, "says Dr. Cooley. “When the symptoms begin to appear, the damage has already occurred. That is why it is important to know what the cardiovascular risk factors are and to take the necessary measures to reduce that risk. Just by controlling one or more risk factors, it is possible to add months and possibly years to our life. "
Dr. Denton A. Cooley founded the Texas Heart Institute in 1962 to study and treat heart and blood vessel disease. Over 123,000 open heart procedures and 276,000 diagnostic cardiac catheterizations have been performed at the Institute, an experience that no other facility can match. The Institute's physicians are also world leaders in non-surgical treatment methods. The Texas Heart Institute is consistently ranked among the best cardiology centers in the United States in the annual guide to "The Best Hospitals in the United States" from the  US News and World Report

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