Not only is February a month dedicated to the ones you love, but it is also a time to love yourself by looking after your heart. Although COVID-19 is an ongoing worry, heart disease is still the No. 1 leading cause of death in the U.S. This staggering statistic calls for continuous action to prioritize your heart health and improve your current lifestyle. Dr. Cameual Wright, market chief medical officer for CareSource Indiana, a nonprofit health plan, shares how you can look after your heart health this month.
What Are the Risks?
Your heart is divided, quite literally, into two pumping systems, both needing to remain clear in order to fight off cardiovascular diseases. Typical lifestyles of poor eating habits and high cholesterol levels conflict with the necessary routine to keep up with your heart health. The U.S. continues to rise in high obesity rates, escalating to 44.8% of middle-aged adults in the last five years according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Knowledge is power, and the first step to combating these statistics is to understand what contributes to the risk of heart disease.
Limiting your risk of cardiovascular diseases involves several important steps. First and foremost, it is crucial to visit your doctor annually and check in on your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as those are often the biggest misses given there are no symptoms. Another important change is to eat a healthier diet of fruit, vegetables and whole grains, avoiding unnecessary saturated fats and added sugar.
Implementing moderate physical activity and strength training to build muscle will also improve your heart health greatly. If you are prescribed medications, make sure you are taking them as directed and keep in touch with your provider by asking questions as you implement these healthy changes.
The Effects of COVID-19
With the ongoing concern of COVID-19, patients are now feeling even more overwhelmed about their health. The virus affects both the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, resulting in a higher risk of death or severe illness for those with poor heart health. Additionally, the pandemic has patients worried about keeping up with in-person doctor visits. However, it is safe to come into the office, and missing those checkups could result in undiscovered health issues.
How to Improve Your Health
Along with an unhealthy diet, the added stress of the world we are in today can also increase the risks of heart complications. Exercise is one of the most underutilized stress reducers as well as keeping up with important relationships. By spending time with friends and family and focusing on improving mindfulness, you can reduce stress levels and decrease your blood pressure.
Looking after your heart can feel like a full-time job. With a full network of health providers, CareSource is here to help manage heart disease, provide necessary referrals and schedule any needed heart-related testing. Our diverse staff is readily available and well-equipped to treat communities of color as we recognize these groups are often the most vulnerable.
It is never too early to implement healthy habits for the sake of your heart and your future. To explore your options and get connected to a provider, visit caresource.com.
Dr. Cameual Wright is CareSource Market chief medical officer.