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Prevention is key for good heart health

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Good heart health is as much about prevention as it is timely treatment. That was the message almost 200 women heard from three Ashtabula County Medical Center providers at ACMC's 13th Annual Heart-to-Heart Luncheon, last Saturday.

ACMC Family Medicine physicians Emily Cheich, DO, & Elaina Williams, DO, and Nurse Practitioner Emily Brown, DNP, gave women a variety of heart health prevention tips.

"Why take medication if you don't have to?" Ms. Brown asked. "Changing the way you eat and simple changes to your lifestyle can have a big impact."

Her advice: Start when you first wake up. Take a few extra steps in the morning. "Make your whole day about preventative measures," she said.

Adding more exercise into your daily routine does not need to be a chore. Ms. Brown suggested walking around while watching television. "Get up during commercials. During an hour show you have short 3-minute breaks that you can get moving. Those breaks add up to more than 15 minutes of exercise."

As for nutritional changes, Ms. Brown reminded women to cut back on the salt. She also said everyone needs to be wiser about the food choices. She suggested eating healthier 80% of the time, while still getting those indulgent treats that we crave. "If you're trying to lose weight, take it up to 90% of the time, but we can still allow ourselves those treats – chocolate, our favorite snacks, or wine."

Ms. Brown also said we should consider the nutritional value of what we eat in restaurants or pre-packaged meals. "You may think if you eat a Cobb salad, you're choosing the best option. That salad has 46 grams of fat and about 2,000 calories. You're better off with a small steak, broccoli, and a baked potato."

Other health tips include seeing a health provider for regular checkups, so you can discuss changes in your health. Also, consider taking a low-dose aspirin, which helps blood flow.

Dr. Cheich said, as we get older our blood vessels become pliable, which leads to internal bleeding problems or the increased risk of stroke with high blood pressure.

"High sodium, excessive alcohol consumption, & a sedentary lifestyle all increase the risk of high blood pressure, which can lead to other health complications," she said.

For example, the overworked heart muscle can grow larger on one side or suffer partial heart failure. There is also an increased risk of stroke, reduced blood flow, or chronic kidney problems.

Dr. Cheich said lowering your weight can lower your blood pressure one point per pound. Increasing exercise can lower it 4 to 6 points, while reducing sodium can lower it up to 6 points.

"You can make these simple changes and have a tremendously positive effect on your health without taking a pill," Dr. Cheich said.

Dr. Williams echoed her statement, adding that we can increase exercise by working around the home or spending time outdoors gardening. "Where ever you find that motivation, it will work out for you."

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderately intense exercise such as walking, cycling, or continuous house cleaning. For those who want to shorten the time, engage in 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise, such as jogging or tennis.

"The benefits of exercise include improved blood flow, decreased blood pressure, lower cholesterol, reduction of inflammation in our arteries, and prevention of type II diabetes, Dr. Williams said.

In addition to hearing from and asking questions of the three providers, ladies at the ACMC Heart Luncheon enjoyed a heart-healthy meal, took several health tests, and shopped with local vendors.

ACMC's Heart-to-Heart Luncheon is always in early February, which is American Heart Month. Information about next year's heart lunch will be posted at in December. To schedule an appointment with any of ACMC's family medicine providers, call 440-997-6969.