February is American Heart Health Month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women so the month serves as an important reminder to give yourself the ultimate gift and check in on your health.
We talked with CU Medicine primary care provider, Dr. Julianne Garrison, about ways to take care of our heart and reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke, and other heart complications.
Ways to Take Care of Your Heart
“Hippocrates said ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,’ and I really think that is the very first place to begin,” said Garrison.
A heart healthy diet is one that is high in fruits and vegetables and limits animal proteins and fats.
In addition to eating healthier, try to exercise regularly, “Exercising is probably the most important pill we would put every person on if it could be prescribed,” Garrison added.
It’s also important to make sure you are getting regular checkups to keep blood pressure well controlled and keep an eye on things like your cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, and your weight.
Reduce your risk of heart disease:
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a heart healthy diet - high in fruits and vegetables
- Don’t smoke/vape
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Manage and reduce stress
- Know your family history
If you have a family history of heart disease including heart attacks and stroke, Garrison explained that it doesn’t mean you’ll have the same complications, “Genetics are just the tip of the iceberg. 90% of what determines whether you get a heart attack or stroke can likely be determined by the way and manner in which you live your life.”
When it comes to making lifestyle changes, Garrison said she asks her patients to just focus on one thing at a time until it’s a habit and then move on to the next thing, “I ask where they want to start because it’s different for everyone.”
The Power of Relationships
A study that is worth mentioning during American Heart Health Month is the Roseto Effect. Roseto is a town in Pennsylvania where immigrants from southern Italy settled in the 1800s. The residents were able to protect their traditions and lifestyles from the old country and in the 1950s the town gained notoriety when it was reported that deaths due to heart disease were dramatically lower than neighboring towns.
Scientists found that what made life different in Roseto were strong ties to community, family, and friendships, “Maintaining positive, meaningful relationships is very important for stroke prevention and heart health,” added Garrison.
So in addition to making healthy lifestyle changes Garrison said, “Go love people with your big hearts!”
You will find Dr. Julianne Garrison at CU Medicine Family Medicine – Park Meadows, click/tap here to make an appointment, get a regular checkup, and take care of your heart health.