Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 790,000 adults suffering a heart attack each year.* Fortunately, research and medical advances continue to provide more information to help us guard against heart disease.
Even though some aspects of your life — your age, genetics, and previous illnesses, for example — may contribute to your risk for heart disease but can’t be controlled, you do have the power to manage your lifestyle. Many of us are aware of some of the most common suggestions to help reduce our risk:
- Get check-ups: see your doctor at least once a year
- Don’t smoke: this includes avoiding second-hand smoke
- Get enough exercise: at least 75 minutes of vigorous activity or 150 minutes of moderate activity each week
- Eat a healthy diet: avoid saturated fats; eat lots of fruits and vegetables; check out this heart-healthy recipe
- Maintain a healthy weight: keep your body mass index (BMI) below 25
- Take your medication: set a routine so that you take it at the same time each day and don’t skip doses; also, don’t share your medication, and don’t change the dose or stop taking it without your doctor’s advice
- Manage your stress: meditation and breathing exercises as well as therapy or counseling can help you get through those tough periods in life that we all experience
But what else can you do, especially if you’re already at higher risk? You can take your wellness to the next level just by deciding that you want to be in control of your health. Here are a few tips:
- Know your family history. The best time to get information about your family’s medical history is before you need it. Ask your doctor for a medical history questionnaire and share it with your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers, and children. One family member can be the “keeper” of the completed forms and create a comprehensive summary.
- Watch your numbers. While the first step is to get regular check-ups and testing, the second step is to follow up on the results. Learn your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels. Then find out the healthy levels for each of these vital signs. If necessary, you can get user-friendly tools to monitor your blood pressure and glucose in between doctor’s visits.
- Pay attention to your body. You are the person who knows yourself best. If something doesn’t feel right, you have the right to say and do something. Since a serious heart condition may seem like another, less serious illness (a heart attack could feel like simple indigestion), don’t worry about “being wrong.” If you’re experiencing a medical emergency, don’t hesitate to call 911.
- Stay well informed. If you have any medical conditions, take time to learn about them so that you’ll know what to discuss with your physician. Doctors love patients who care about their health, and they don’t mind answering questions and helping you understand your condition. You deserve to be the person who is most concerned about you.
- Understand existing illnesses. For example, if you’re one of the 23 million adults in the U.S. who have diabetes, you have a higher risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), which accounts for one in three deaths in America each year.* You’ll want to work with your doctor to reduce those risks as much as possible.
- Get a partner. You don’t have to do this alone. Having someone who will help you keep track of your medications, exercise with you, and encourage you on days when you don’t feel your best can go a long way to help you improve your health and reduce the risks to your heart health.
Above all, don’t give up. No matter what your condition is, you can stay in the fight to be as healthy as you can. You are the #1 factor that determines the quality of your well-being. And remember that Teladoc is available 24/7 anywhere in the U.S. to help you manage your family’s non-emergency medical needs. Our board-certified physicians can help diagnose and treat ailments such as flu, allergies, sinus infections, bronchitis, and much more. Be sure to download our convenient app to your phone or tablet.
*Source: American Academy of Cardiology
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