by Peter Culp
In case you are not aware, February is American Heart Month, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to share some information on cardiovascular health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is responsible for about 25% of the deaths in America or around 655,000 per year.
Risk factors that contribute to heart disease:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Physical inactivity
- Poor eating habits
Now that the scary stuff is out of the way, let’s talk about how to take control of your heart health! The first step is to manage any conditions you may have. This can look like meeting with your doctor and taking the appropriate medications that they prescribe for high cholesterol or high blood pressure. This can also look like making healthier dietary choices or meeting with a dietician or nutritionist to assist in creating a healthy eating plan. Another huge help in reducing risk for heart disease is to quit smoking.
One of the best ways to reduce the risk of heart disease is to begin training your cardiovascular system. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that,
All healthy adults aged 18–65 yr should participate in moderate intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes on five days per week, or vigorous intensity aerobic activity for a minimum of 20 minutes on three days per week.” The word “aerobic” here means using air, or performing an activity like walking, jogging, swimming, hiking, etc.
In the spirit of American Heart Month, look at these risk factors and see if there is anything you can do to improve the health of your heart and cardiovascular system. My recommendation is to make a plan by creating some goals that are realistic and making yourself accountable for them. For me, I need to increase my minutes of vigorous activity during the week. So my plan will be to have Saturday, Monday, and Wednesday my vigorous activity days and make myself a calendar to mark what I have done.
If you feel daunted by going it alone, physical therapy can play a pivotal role in improving the endurance and efficiency of your cardiovascular system. A physical therapist will evaluate a patient’s current physical limitations, make patient-oriented goals that are salient to the patient, and design individualized exercise plans that target strengthening the overall body and improving endurance. This leads to increased efficiency of the heart and potentially reduces the need for medications or surgical interventions. As patients progress and get stronger, we will reevaluate their specific program and modify as necessary, until they have met their specific treatment goals. You may not be aware that physical therapy should also be an integral part of post-surgical rehab following heart procedures. Talk to your surgeon or physical therapist for details.
Good luck with changing those heart health habits! As always, if you have any questions or would like to speak directly with a therapist about how our heart healthy PT program works, please do not hesitate to reach out and we can help get you the resources that you need and evaluate you at no cost.
- Trending topic: Physical activity guidelines. (n.d.). Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://www.acsm.org/read-research/trending-topics-resource-pages/physical-activity-guidelines
- Heart disease: It can happen at any age. (2021, January 26). Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/any_age.htm