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4 Things Everyone Should Know About Heart Health

4 things everyone should know about heart health - klingensmiths drug stores

Maintaining and understanding heart health isn’t just important for elderly people or those who have pre-existing conditions: it’s something we should all care about.

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States, killing approximately 655,000 Americans each year. That’s one in every five deaths.

This staggering statistic underscores the urgency of prioritizing heart health awareness and prevention strategies. Although most of us know we need to exercise and manage our stress, heart health is more complicated than what you’ll see in quick infomercials on TV.

So, let’s talk about it!

At Klingensmith’s Drug Stores, we’re committed to helping our customers and neighbors maintain healthy hearts. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of four things everyone should know about their hearts and making healthy choices.

1 – How the Heart Works

You might already know this, but in case you don’t: the heart is a vital organ in the circulatory system. It functions as a muscular pump responsible for circulating blood throughout the body.

Your heart consists of four chambers: two atria and two ventricles. The right side receives deoxygenated blood from the body and pumps it to the lungs for oxygenation, while the left side receives oxygen-rich blood from the lungs and pumps it out to the rest of the body.

During each of your body’s heartbeats, the atria contract to push blood into the ventricles, which then contract to propel the blood out of the heart and into the arteries. From there, blood travels through a network of arteries, veins, and capillaries, delivering vital nutrients and oxygen to your tissues and organs while removing metabolic waste products like carbon dioxide.

It might seem like we’re stating the obvious, but a healthy heart is crucial for optimal bodily function and longevity. It ensures efficient delivery of oxygen and nutrients to cells, supports healthy organ function, and helps maintain your overall health.

2 – Common Heart Diseases

Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a condition characterized by the narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries, which supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. This occurs due to the buildup of plaque—a combination of cholesterol, fat, calcium, and other substances—in the artery walls, a process known as atherosclerosis.

As plaque accumulates, it restricts blood flow to the heart, leading to symptoms such as chest pain or discomfort (angina), shortness of breath, fatigue, and in severe cases, heart attack or sudden cardiac death.

Peripheral Artery Disease

Similar to CAD, peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a condition characterized by the narrowing or blockage of arteries outside of the heart, but these are typically in the legs. As a result, blood flow to the legs and feet is reduced, leading to symptoms such as leg pain, cramping, weakness, or numbness, especially during physical activity.

Heart Failure

This is a chronic condition in which the heart is unable to pump blood efficiently to meet the body’s needs. Heart failure can occur when the heart becomes weakened or stiffened, often as a result of conditions such as CAD, high blood pressure, or previous heart attacks. As a result, fluid may accumulate in the lungs, causing shortness of breath, or in the legs and abdomen, leading to swelling.

Arrhythmias

Arrhythmias are irregular heartbeats that occur when the heart’s electrical impulses, which coordinate its rhythm, become disrupted. This can cause the heart to beat too fast (tachycardia), too slow (bradycardia), or irregularly.

Arrhythmias can result from various factors, including heart disease, electrolyte imbalances, medications, stress, or genetic predisposition. While some may not cause noticeable symptoms, others can lead to palpitations, dizziness, fainting, chest discomfort, or even cardiac arrest.

Heart Valve Disease

Heart valve disease occurs when one or more of the heart’s four valves become damaged or dysfunctional, affecting blood flow within the heart. This damage can result from conditions such as infection (endocarditis), congenital defects, age-related changes, or other heart diseases.

When valves do not open or close properly, blood flow can be obstructed (stenosis) or flow backward (regurgitation), causing symptoms like fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, or swelling in the legs or abdomen.

Cardiomyopathy

This is a disease of the heart muscle in which the muscle becomes weakened, enlarged, or stiffened, leading to impaired function of the heart. Cardiomyopathy can be inherited or acquired and is often associated with other cardiovascular diseases.

3 – Risk Factors for Heart Problems

The risk factors for heart problems can be divided into modifiable and non-modifiable categories.

Non-modifiable risk factors include…

  • Age (Men over 45, women over 55)
  • Gender (men are more at risk at younger ages)
  • Family history of heart disease or stroke

Regular health checkups are important for everyone, but they are especially vital if you have any of the non-modifiable risk factors we just listed. Make sure you’re getting in to see your healthcare provider at least once a year.

Modifiable risk factors are those that individuals can actively address and manage to reduce their risk of heart problems. These include…

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Physical inactivity
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Chronic stress

If any of these risk factors strike a chord with you, talk to your doctor about specific strategies for improving your heart health.

4 – How to Maintain a Healthy Heart

Whether you have any pre-existing risk factors or not, now is the best time to be proactive about your heart health. Here are some of the top ways you can protect your heart for years to come by alleviating any modifiable risk factors.

– Remember Your ABCS

The ABCS of heart health, as set by Million Hearts, are part of an initiative aimed at preventing heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular events by focusing on key risk factors.

The acronym stands for…

  • (1) Aspirin when appropriate: Aspirin therapy is recommended for certain individuals at high risk of cardiovascular events, such as those with a history of heart attack or stroke, to help prevent blood clots from forming. Of course, you should consult with a healthcare provider before starting this therapy, as it may not be suitable for everyone.
  • (2) Blood pressure control: High blood pressure (hypertension) is a significant risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Monitoring blood pressure regularly and taking steps to control it through lifestyle changes (such as a healthy diet, regular physical activity, and stress management) and medications can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular events.
  • (3) Cholesterol management: High levels of LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) in the blood can contribute to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Focus on making dietary changes, exercising regularly, and taking medications as prescribed by your healthcare provider.
  • (4) Smoking cessation: Smoking is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Quitting smoking and avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke can significantly lower your risk of heart disease.

By focusing on these strategies, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular events, leading to better overall health and longevity.

– Maintaining Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for your heart – excess body weight is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as coronary artery disease, heart failure, and stroke.

According to the American Heart Association, obesity-related conditions account for approximately 111,909 preventable deaths each year in the United States alone. By managing weight through a heart-healthy diet and regular exercise, individuals can reduce strain on the heart, lower high cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and decrease the risk of developing heart-related complications.

– Prioritize Stress Management

You’ve probably heard stress referred to as the “silent killer,” and it’s true: stress can lead to a variety of risk factors for heart disease. Keeping your body in “fight or flight” mode can increase your heart rate and blood pressure, which over time, contributes to the risk of cardiovascular problems.

Make sure you’re taking steps to alleviate chronic tension and stress by exercising, meditating, and seeking professional help when necessary.

– Get Quality Sleep

Getting enough zzz’s is essential. Sleep allows your body to repair and rejuvenate, helping to regulate blood pressure and reduce inflammation – both of which are big factors in maintaining cardiovascular health.

According to the American Heart Association, insufficient sleep has been associated with an increased risk of developing hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and other conditions that contribute to heart disease. Work on prioritizing quality sleep by maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleep environment, and practicing relaxation techniques.

– Limit Alcohol Consumption

Reducing or even eliminating alcohol consumption is powerful for heart health. Excessive drinking can lead to high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, and weakening of the heart muscle, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, excessive alcohol consumption is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease, with heavy drinkers being more likely to develop hypertension and other heart-related conditions.

Try to drink alcohol in moderation or abstain altogether, especially if you’re already at risk for cardiovascular problems.

Visit Your Local Klingensmith’s for Help

Although strong heart health should always start with your healthcare provider, your pharmacy also plays a big role in staying protected and safe.

Klingensmith’s Drug Stores offers everything you need to monitor your heart health and overall wellness, from pulse ox devices to pressure cuffs and heart monitors. We’re also here to help with things like medication adherence and supplements.

Let us be a part of your journey to a happier, healthier heart. Reach out today for any questions, or drop by your nearest Klingensmith’s location to speak with a pharmacist.

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Klingensmith's Drug Stores

Providing Pharmaceutical care in the Armstrong County area for over 80 years.