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Guest Column: 5 strategies to help prevent heart disease

Guest Column by Nicole McGuire

Nicole McGuire

 

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States. According to the American Heart Association, one in three men experience one or more heart conditions in their lifetime. While some men are aware of their heart conditions, other men report no symptoms prior. There are many ways we can help prevent heart disease and live longer, healthier lives.

 

The “silent killer”

One factor that can be completely asymptomatic or “silent,” is high blood pressure. High blood pressure makes the heart work harder to pump all our blood to the rest of the body. When blood pressure increases, the workload of the heart is higher, which can cause it to work less efficiently. The normal blood pressure is 120/80 and high salt, caffeine and lack of physical activity can increase blood pressure.

 

Salty six

Eating too much salt can raise the amount of salt in the bloodstream, which affects the kidney’s ability to excrete water. This directly increases blood pressure, making the heart work harder. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams a day. Table salt only contributes to one-third of the sodium intake. One teaspoon of table salt is 2,300  milligrams of sodium. The salty six are hidden sources of sodium such as pizza, bread, sandwiches, cold cuts, canned soup and burritos/tacos. Tips to reduce sodium include rinsing canned goods before use, limiting cheese/meat and adding more vegetables, picking the low sodium options, and limiting processed and packaged foods.

 

Physical activity

Exercising makes your heart stronger, which can lower blood pressure. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week.

 

Smoking

Smoking makes you three times more likely to develop heart disease than a non-smoker. Smoking damages the lining of the arteries, which can cause narrowing. The toxins from the cigarettes contaminate the blood, changing the blood chemistry.

 

Healthy weight

According to the Mayo Clinic website, “if you’re overweight, losing even five pounds lowers your blood pressure.” Obesity is defined as having a body mass index equal or greater than 30 kg/m2. This increases the risk for multiple chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cancer and heart disease.

 

Nicole McGuire is a dietetic intern at Viterbo University. She is completing her clinical rotation at Mayo Clinic Health System. She graduated with her bachelor’s of science from Oregon, will soon take the exam to be a registered dietitian and plans to become a clinical dietitian. She enjoys cooking, traveling and watching movies