Question: How can I decrease my risk of having a heart attack?
There are many ways to decrease your risk of having a heart attack. Smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diet, and diabetes are all risk factors for heart disease that you can modify with lifestyle changes. The more risk factors you have, the higher the risk of having a heart attack and the more important it is for you to change your lifestyle.
If you are considered overweight or obese, bringing down your weight by exercising (at least 150 minutes per week) and by decreasing your caloric intake will help lower your risks. A diet rich in fruit and vegetables is helpful in weight loss as these foods are full of fiber and vitamins, low in calories, and make the body feel more full.
Smoking also increases your risk of heart disease. The benefits of quitting on the heart appear only a few months after, and in just a few years your heart can appear as healthy as that of a nonsmoker. Smokers interested in quitting should reach out to their doctor for help. Behavioral therapy, nicotine replacement therapy and other pharmaceuticals are available. Kootenai Health offers a smoking cessation program, “Be Smoke Free in Seven Weeks” for those looking for a permanent solution.
Know Your Numbers
If your blood pressure is running consistently over 140/90, your risk of heart disease increases. For these patients, salt restriction, losing weight if needed, and increasing physical activity can all bring these numbers down. If that doesn’t help, your doctor could recommend a blood pressure medication to decrease your risk of heart disease.
You should get your cholesterol checked and discuss the results with your doctor. For those with high cholesterol, increasing exercise, eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables and losing weight if appropriate can all help bring cholesterol levels down. If lifestyle changes do not work, discuss the need for any medications that might work with your doctor
What About Aspirin?
Daily aspirin might be helpful to decrease a patient’s risk of having a heart attack. Aspirin does have some risks, so to talk to your doctor before starting it. Daily aspirin is generally more helpful for one with multiple risk factors for a heart attack and not recommended for someone at lower risk.
If you’re interested in learning more about staying healthy, or are looking for a primary care or internal medicine physician, call Dr. Dinning’s office at (208) 625-4515.