Maintaining a Healthy Cardiovascular System
Family Healthcare & Cardiac Center
Cardiovascular clinic with trusted cardiologist & vein specialists, offering wide range of vascular tests, imaging & treatments in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, NY.
Many causes of heart disease are preventable. Even those with a family history of heart disease can lower their risk through diet, exercise, and other lifestyle habits.
Regular exercise is imperative for a healthy circulatory system. The heart is a complex muscle, and will become stronger if you train it. A healthy adult should be exercising for at least 2.5 hours per week, at an intensity that achieves an aerobic heart rate. To find your recommended maximum aerobic heart rate, subtract your age from 220. The resulting number is the maximum number of beats your heart should make in a minute while exercising. You can tell you’re exercising at an appropriate intensity if you are able to speak, but not sing.
Maintain a healthy body weight. If you are trying to lose weight, you’ll need to take in fewer calories than you burn. Extra body weight puts extra strain on the heart and circulatory system, a problem not uncommon in the United States. On the other hand, insufficient body mass is also very hard on the heart; anorexia nervosa is the deadliest psychiatric disorder because of the extreme stress it places on the heart muscle. Women should aim to carry 20-25% body fat, men 8-14%.
Diet is another import piece of the cardiology puzzle. Choose unsaturated fats over saturated; they are easier for your body to break down and use as energy. Limit sodium intake to a maximum of 2,300 mg per day. 25-30 daily grams of fiber - ideally balancing soluble and insoluble fiber - will help your body feel healthier in all sorts of ways. And as to cholesterol, increase your intake of high-density lipoprotein while decreasing low-density lipoprotein. HDL is often referred to as “good cholesterol,” because it helps remove LDL or “bad cholesterol” from your body. HDL cholesterol can be found in foods like fatty fish, flax, and fibrous fruits.
Finally, you should have healthy, productive ways of dealing with stress. We figuratively refer to the heart as an emotional muscle for a reason; strong or prolonged emotional stress can strain the heart significantly. There are a million ways to combat everyday stress, from reading to jogging to interacting with animals. For periods of unusually intense stress, for instance after the death of a loved one, or if you feel your anger, fear, or sadness is often out of your control, a mental health professional is the best person to ask for support.
Avoid tobacco products, and limit use of alcohol. Women should drink no more than one alcoholic beverage per day. Men can safely consume two.
You have an increased risk of heart disease if you do not get sufficient exercise, if you are significantly over- or under-weight, if you have Type I or Type II Diabetes, if you smoke, or if you drink more than the recommended levels of alcohol. You should also know your family history: Has anyone in your direct lineage (grandparents, parents, siblings, children) suffered from heart disease? If so, at what age were they diagnosed?
If you’re a healthy adult without a family history of heart disease, you do not need to see a cardiologist for regular check-ups. However, your primary care doctor should start specifically monitoring your heart health between the ages of 45 and 55.
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