Why should we care about heart health?

Agnesian HealthCare Work and Wellness
Heart stethescope

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. This includes heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease.

Most of the risk factors for heart disease are modifiable by preventive measures, and adjunctive drug therapies. These include:

  1. Diet
  2. Physical inactivity
  3. Obesity
  4. Smoking
  5. Hypertension (elevated blood pressure)
  6. Dyslipidemia (elevated lipids)
  7. Diabetes mellitus
  8. Heavy alcohol use
The presence of multiple risk factors poses an added risk.


Healthy diet: Healthy diets significantly lower risks of heart disease. Healthy diets consist of:

  • Five or more servings of fruits and/or vegetables daily.
  • Monounsaturated fat rather than trans fatty acids or saturated fats.
  • Low sodium intake.
  • Whole grains (whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole grain cereals and oatmeal) rather than refined grains (white bread, white rice, refined and sweetened cereals). Refined grains are associated with long-term weight gain.
  • Fat-free or low-fat milk products (skim milk, yogurt).
  • Protein-rich foods, including seafood, lean meat such as poultry, eggs, beans, peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.
  • Limit consumption of soft drinks and other sweetened beverages (fruit drinks).
Physical activity: Common recommendations include 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise, 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise or brisk walking for 20 minutes daily.

Weight loss: Obesity increases one’s risk factors for heart disease including hypertension, dyslipidemia and diabetes. Weight loss decreases these risks.

Smoking cessation: Some approaches to smoking cessation include behavioral therapy, nicotine replacement therapy and other drug therapies.

Blood pressure control: Hypertension (elevated blood pressure) is a well-established risk factor for heart disease, and can be managed through diet, exercise and adjunctive drug therapy as appropriate.

Elevated lipids: Controlled through exercise, diet and drug therapy as appropriate.

Diabetes control: Glycemic control involves weight management, blood pressure and lipid control to prevent some of the complications that lead to heart disease.

Alcohol: Studies show that consumption of small amounts of alcohol lowers risks of morbidity and mortality from heart disease.

Aspirin: Only if asked to take aspirin by your health provider.

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