Pumping Up Heart Health: Strategies for a Stronger Cardiovascular System

February may be known for celebrations like Valentine’s Day or the Super Bowl, but it’s also an important time to reflect on our health during American Heart Month.

Heart health is vital to overall wellness, and heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. In 2021, heart disease and stroke claimed more lives than all forms of cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease combined.

How can we ensure that we keep ourselves and our loved ones healthy? As advocates for proactive healthcare management, Gold Kidney believes that empowering our members with knowledge and resources is fundamental to promoting heart health and enhancing overall well-being.

Who is Most at Risk?

According to the American Heart Association, hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol are leading risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

These conditions affect millions of Americans, with 46.7% of U.S. adults having hypertension alone. High blood pressure can damage arteries by making them less elastic, resulting in decreased blood flow and oxygen to your heart.

An even greater number of Americans have prediabetes (46.4%), diagnosed diabetes (10.6%), or undiagnosed diabetes (3.5%). High blood glucose from diabetes can damage blood vessels and the nerves that control the cardiovascular system. Those with diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke.

How Can I Get Healthy?

The American Heart Association measures eight key health factors – Life’s Essential 8 – to track progress toward improving cardiovascular health in the U.S. Putting these eight tips into action, anyone can benefit from improved health.

  1. Physical Activity: Walking is a great way to hit the recommended 150-minutes of moderate physical activity per week. Start slowly and build gradually to about 30 minutes most days of the week.
  2. Healthy Diet: Make sure your diet is made up of whole foods, lean protein, low sodium levels, and lots of fruits and vegetables. Legumes like lentils can be a great way to get lean protein and fiber, and nuts and seeds serve as a great heart-healthy snack option.
  3. Healthy Body Weight: Achieving a body mass index (BMI) within the range of 18.5 and 25 is a good benchmark for healthy weight, which can be calculated online or with the help of your healthcare provider. Luckily, following the tips in this list, particularly physical activity and a healthy diet, will help you reach that goal.
  4. Not Smoking: There are many strategies to quitting smoking, vaping, and using tobacco, and you and your healthcare provider can work to find the best option for you. Setting a quit date and planning ahead for cravings and urges can help.
  5. Sleep Health: Adults should aim for an average of 7-9 hours of sleep each night. While we all enjoy some shut eye, too much sleep can be associated with heart disease. Heading to bed around the same time each night can help build consistency and make it easier to fall asleep.
  6. Control of Cholesterol: Ensure you have an annual blood test for total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. The types of fats you eat can also affect your cholesterol levels – replace saturated fats like animal fats with unsaturated fats like olive oil or avocado oil.
  7. Control of Blood Pressure: Keeping your levels close to the optimal level of 120/80 mm Hg can greatly improve longevity and well-being. Limit your intake of processed foods and fast food, which can have sky-high sodium levels.
  8. Control of Blood Sugar: Those with diabetes or prediabetes should take special care to monitor hemoglobin A1c levels, and all individuals should keep up with annual physicals to ensure they are not at risk. Watch your intake of sugary food and drinks and opt for fruit-sweetened options instead.

As we wrap up American Heart Month, let’s shine a light on the importance of cardiovascular wellness, especially for individuals managing chronic conditions. At Gold Kidney, we have dedicated plans designed for chronic special needs (C-SNP) to aid in both preventative health and highly specialized responsive care.

Learn more about our plans (choose your state, Arizona or Florida) and how you can earn rewards for preventative health practices like an annual physical, or flu or COVID vaccinations. You may be eligible for additional benefits including transportation to appointments and in-home support. You deserve the gold standard of care!