Sperling Prostate Center

5 Key Steps to Long Life for Your Heart

Did you ever play “Guess How Many Jellybeans in This Jar”? Here’s a guessing game that affects every person: If you live to age 70, guess how many heartbeats you’ve had since you were born. Want to estimate? Is it:

a) 13.8 million times
b) 247 million times
c) 2.5 billion times
d) More than a trillion times?

If you guessed c) 2.5 billion times, you are correct. If you live to age 90, just imagine how many more times that muscular pump must function to circulate your blood throughout all the blood vessels in your body! Obviously, if you want to live a long and healthy life, you have to take care of your ticker.

Heart disease—or more properly, cardiovascular (CV) disease—is the leading killer of men of all races, origins and ages. The expression CV disease is a catch-all term for any abnormality or illness that affects the heart (cardio) and blood vessels (vascular). Here are the main types of CV disease that impair the heart and its function, and the number of annual deaths they cause:

  • Cardiovascular disease includes coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease (over 800,000 annual deaths)
  • Coronary heart disease is a combined build-up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. This accumulation, called plaque, can clog up the flow of blood to your heart, leading to chest pain (angina) or even heart attack. Plaque can also trigger the formation of blood clots, further narrowing or altogether blocking an artery (about 366,000 annual deaths)
  • Stroke can occur when blood flow to the brain is blocked, and high blood pressure is linked with risk for stroke (795,000 strokes per year, with 137,000 annual deaths)

5 steps to cardiovascular health

The best way to protect your cardiovascular health so you get your maximum number of heartbeats is to minimize the most common risk factors for CV disease: 1) unhealthy diet, 2) lack of exercise, 3) smoking, 4) high blood pressure, and 5) high LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol). Therefore, think of correcting or eliminating them as taking a key step toward a CV wellness and a long life:

  1. Eat a healthy, non-inflammatory diet such as the Mediterranean or DASH eating plan.
  2. Get moving! Develop and keep an exercise/workout practice that includes at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week.
  3. If you’re a cigarette smoker, quit! Avoid smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke.
  4. Before you ask your doctor for a prescription, consider that the above three steps are proven to reduce high blood pressure, especially if you add in stress management, reduced sodium in your diet, getting a good night’s sleep, and limit alcohol. Experts agree that the risks of blood pressure medications are low, but why not commit to Steps 1-3 first to see if they make a difference? Keeping a blood pressure cuff at home is an inexpensive way to see for yourself that lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of stroke and heart attack.
  5. If dedicated lifestyle changes don’t seem to make an impact on your level of “bad” or LDL cholesterol, talk to your doctor about using statin medication. For the most part, these drugs are safe and reasonably priced, and you’d have a lot of company. It’s estimated that 92 million people take them. However, they are not a substitute for healthy eating and exercise, so its important to support their effect by adhering to Steps 1-3!

If you’re not already on track with these 5 Steps, start slow and small. Think baby steps. Taking on too much too soon is a setup for discouragement and “change fatigue.” Don’t expect to reverse unhealthy behaviors quickly. There is a theory that it takes at least six weeks to develop a new habit, so go easy. Each small change already begins to enact the physical and mental improvements your body—and your heart—actually long for. As a bonus, keep in mind that what’s good for the heart is also good for the prostate. Research supports that all of the above practices lower the risk of prostate cancer.

NOTE: This content is solely for purposes of information and does not substitute for diagnostic or medical advice. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing pelvic pain, or have any other health concerns or questions of a personal medical nature.

About Dr. Dan Sperling

Dan Sperling, MD, DABR, is a board certified radiologist who is globally recognized as a leader in multiparametric MRI for the detection and diagnosis of a range of disease conditions. As Medical Director of the Sperling Prostate Center, Sperling Medical Group and Sperling Neurosurgery Associates, he and his team are on the leading edge of significant change in medical practice. He is the co-author of the new patient book Redefining Prostate Cancer, and is a contributing author on over 25 published studies. For more information, contact the Sperling Prostate Center.

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