Forrest General Wants You to Be Sweet to Your Heart

Published 11:38 am Monday, February 13, 2023

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (February 6, 2023) – In this day and time, what do you think is the greatest threat to your health? Obesity? Cancer? Diabetes? While these are the most frequently mentioned concerns, it’s actually heart disease, which kills more than 655,000 people a year. Heart disease encompasses many heart conditions, including heart valve disease, heart infection, diseases of the heart muscle, congenital heart defects, heart rhythm issues, coronary artery disease, and more.

February is American Heart Month, a time when all people can focus on their cardiovascular health, because keeping your heart healthy is central to overall good health. It’s time to be sweet to your heart. You are never too old or too young to begin taking good care of your heart. Taking small steps to follow a healthy lifestyle at any age can help prevent heart disease and lower your risk for a heart attack or stroke.

Conditions that lead to heart disease may begin early in life, but there are many steps you can take to protect your heart health. Start by knowing your risk factors. Some, like family history or being over the age of 45, are beyond your control, but there are risk factors that you can control. Nearly half of all Americans have at least one of three risk factors – high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, or smoking.

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“Knowing your family health history regarding heart disease is one of the first steps you need to take in preventing heart disease in your future,” said cardiologist, Josh Blair, MD, FACC, based on that information, your doctor can assist you in steps to prevent or treat heart disease.

Blair offers the following healthy habits one can follow in pursuit of a happy, healthy heart:

  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Get active
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Avoid smoking
  • Control your cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Only drink alcohol in moderation
  • Manage your stress
  • Get adequate sleep

“Preventative care and checkups are important in the prevention of heart disease,” said Blair. “Many heart conditions and their risk factors can go undetected without regular heart checkups and health screenings. Heart disease prevention can often prevent a second heart attack, halt the progression of heart disease, and prevent early death.”

Habits for a Healthy Heart

A healthy diet is one of the best ways to avoid heart disease. Your heart and overall health will benefit if you follow these nutritional guidelines:

  • Include a variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Eat fiber-rich whole grains
  • Choose low-fat dairy products
  • Eat lean meats and at least two servings per week of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, trout, herring)
  • Limit sodium to less than 1,500 mg a day
  • Watch fat and sugar intake
  • Watch portion sizes

“Portion control is also important whether you’re trying to lose weight or maintain weight,” he said.

Sleep on It

Making sure you get a good night’s sleep (at least seven hours per night) is another small step with big payoffs for heart health. Not getting enough sleep puts you at a higher risk for heart disease. Seven to eight hours a night on average is recommended.

“Studies have shown that people who sleep less than 6 hours/night have more cardiovascular risks (high blood pressure, increased blood sugar, obesity, etc.) than those who get adequate sleep,” Blair said. “Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do for your heart. Obesity is linked to increased blood pressure, cholesterol, and risk for diabetes.”

Treat Stress and Mental Health Problems

According to Blair, mental health can positively or negatively impact your physical health and risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Keep stress in check by taking time each day to relax and unwind. Exercise is a good way to alleviate stress. Get help if you have trouble coping because of depression, anxiety, or other health problems.

For more information about heart health, visit