Looking After Your Heart Health
February is American Heart Month, and love is in the air. What better time than now to express your love and gratitude for all that your heart does? From understanding your risks of heart attacks and tips to improve your cardiac health, here are some tips to keep your ticker in top shape.
Why Heart Attacks Increase During the Winter
Though the winter months are full of happiness and joy, we typically see an influx of heart attacks this time of year. In fact, the number of cardiac events and deaths increases by 5% during the winter in the U.S. With such a high number, it’s important to understand what causes heart attacks this time of year in order to try to combat them:
Shoveling Driveways & Walkways
Shoveling your driveway and walkway is more than a tedious chore, it’s also a strenuous physical activity. While it can be safe for those who exercise regularly, it can cause unnecessary strain on the heart for those who typically lead a sedentary lifestyle.
Cold temperatures also cause your blood pressure to spike, making for a dangerous combination of factors. This can make your blood more likely to clot, leading to a heart attack.
Higher Levels of Stress
While there is no direct correlation between stress and heart attacks, stress can affect other areas of your heart health that subsequently leave you at a higher risk. When you suffer from chronic stress, your body’s stress response can leave you more likely to develop high blood pressure and heart disease.
The winter months are full of holidays, celebrations, and tons of food. Even if you typically lead a healthier lifestyle, spending several weeks indulging in foods high in fat and cholesterol can cause strain on your heart.
Identifying the Signs of a Heart Attack
Like your other organs, your heart needs oxygen in order to do its job. Heart attacks happen when there is an obstruction of the coronary artery, which is responsible for delivering oxygenated blood to your heart muscle.
This blockage either drastically decreases the blood flow to the heart or stops it completely. Once blood flow to your heart has stopped, there is damage or death to some of the heart.
Signs & Symptoms of a Heart Attack
The most common symptoms that may mean someone is having a heart attack include:
- Chest discomfort
- Feeling weak or faint
- Pain or discomfort in the jack, neck, or upper back
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms
- Shortness of breath
Some symptoms that are more specific to women include:
- Pressure or squeezing sensation in the chest
- Pain or discomfort in the jaw or stomach
- Breaking out in cold sweat
What to Do if You Suspect a Heart Attack
If you think that you or someone around you is suffering from a heart attack, it is crucial that you dial 9-1-1 immediately. The faster you respond and seek help, the less damage happens to the heart.
Start These Heart-Healthy Habits
Monitor Your Blood Pressure Regularly
Keeping your blood pressure under control is an important part of looking after your heart health. When you get your blood pressure reading, it displays two numbers like a fraction. The number on top is your systolic blood pressure, and the one on the bottom is your diastolic blood pressure.
When you check your blood pressure reading, this is what the different number ranges mean:
- Normal: Your blood pressure reading is less than 120/80.
- Elevated: Your systolic blood pressure falls between 120-129 and your diastolic blood pressure is below 80.
- High Blood Pressure—Hypertension Stage 1: Your systolic reading falls in the 130-139 range and your diastolic reading is at 80-89.
- High Blood Pressure—Hypertension Stage 2: Your blood pressure exceeds 140/90 regularly.
- Hypertensive Crisis: Your blood exceeds 180/120. If this happens, wait several minutes before checking your blood pressure again. If it is still this high, you should seek immediate medical attention.
If your blood pressure falls between the elevated to hypertension stage 2 range, it is important for you to make the appropriate lifestyle changes to manage your blood pressure, getting it back down to a normal range.
Drink More Water
Drinking enough water each day is a simple way to look after your heart health. When you stay adequately hydrated, it helps your heart muscle to perform optimally.
When you become dehydrated, it can negatively affect the way your cardiovascular system works. When there’s not enough water in your cells, your heart beats faster, and your blood pressure rises.
To stay adequately hydrated, aim for drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water throughout the day!
Take a Daily Walk
Leading an active lifestyle is also important when it comes to supporting your cardiovascular health. Like the other muscles in your body, exercising helps to strengthen your heart muscle, making it more efficient when it comes to pumping blood to the various parts of your body.
The average adult should try to work in at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week. While this goal can seem a bit ambitious, getting your exercise in can be as simple as taking a walk. By setting aside 30 minutes to go for a walk, you can bolster your heart health.
Start Your Day with a Stretch
Stretching isn’t just a great way to relieve aches and pains, and it also helps your cardiovascular system! Introducing yoga and dynamic stretching into your daily routine can improve blood circulation throughout your entire body.
Try to set aside just 10 minutes before you start your day to stretch.
Contact Kirby Medical Center
At Kirby Medical Center, we are dedicated to helping our community learn how to stay healthy and safe. If you are concerned about your health risks and the types of vaccines that are right for you, contact Kirby Medical Center
at 217-762-2115 to learn more about how we can assist with all your healthcare needs.