The Healthy Heartbeat - Volume 3

Taking Control After a Heart Disease Diagnosis

Being diagnosed with heart disease isn’t the kind of news you want to hear, but it could be the wakeup call you need to take charge of your health. It’s better to know that you are on a dangerous path so you can make the necessary lifestyle changes to ward off or even reverse heart disease. Of course, every individual is different, and you and your doctor will need to work together to decide what steps are appropriate for you. Take your diagnosis seriously, and commit to embracing new healthier habits and following your treatment plan:

  • Take rehabilitation seriously! If you have had a cardiac event or have risk factors for heart disease, MarinHealth Haynes Cardiovascular Institute offers medically supervised outpatient cardiac rehabilitation programs that can help reduce your risk for future cardiac events. These individualized programs include exercise, nutrition, and stress management, and are an important component of cardiac care. The rehabilitation program you choose will depend on your personal preferences and your physician’s recommendation.
  • Stop smoking. Inhaling tobacco alters your heart function and changes the delivery of oxygen to your cells. In addition to causing lung cancer, smoking is a risk factor for heart disease—especially atherosclerosis. MarinHealth offers a smoking cessation program through our Integrative Wellness Center.
  • Get your blood pressure under control. Ideally, your blood pressure should be less than 120 systolic and 80 diastolic (120/80). Invest in a home blood pressure monitor and check your pressure as often as the doctor recommends. If your doctor recommends medication, take it as directed while continuing to incorporate other lifestyle changes, such as reducing stress (see below).
  • Watch your cholesterol. Ask your physician what your cholesterol levels should be, and whether you can achieve them through diet and exercise changes, or if medication is required. In general:
    • The average person with good overall health should aim for an LDL level below 130 milligrams (mg).
    • If you have risk factors for heart disease or have been diagnosed with early-stage heart disease, aim for an LDL level below 100 mg.
    • If you've already had a heart attack or have diabetes, both major risk factors for heart disease, aim for an LDL level below 70 mg.
  • Control your blood sugar. If you have diabetes, keeping tight control of your blood sugar will help you reduce your heart disease risk. Losing weight, changing your diet, and incorporating more exercise may help you better manage your blood sugar. If you have type 2 diabetes, talk to your doctor about other lifestyle changes and medication to determine the best approach for managing diabetes—or even reversing it.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and lean protein such as chicken, fish, and nuts. Try to consume 4-5 cups of fruits and vegetables a day. Avoid saturated fat, cholesterol, processed foods, added sugar, and sodium. Your sodium intake should be less than 1500 mg a day.
  • Work with a dietician. If your doctor recommends a complete diet overhaul, ask about working with a dietician. He or she can evaluate your current diet, and help you make lasting changes that will improve your health. A dietician will also give you recipes and tips for meal planning and preparation to ensure that your diet is tasty as well as healthy.
  • Keep your weight down. Excess weight contributes to heart disease, as well as diabetes and other comorbidities that are often seen in those diagnosed with heart disease. Your goal should be a body mass index (BMI) of less than 25 and a waist circumference of 35 inches (88.9 centimeters) or less.
  • Get moving! Exercising through a cardiac rehab program is the way to do it without overdoing it! Your doctor may want you to take a stress test to see what level of exercise you can safely attempt. Exercising three to five times a week for 30-35 minutes is enough to start seeing some benefits, but the more active you are, the better for your heart and general health. Just make sure you talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.
  • Address your stress. Chronic stress is bad for your heart. Whether you are in the early stages of heart disease, or have already had a cardiac event, too much stress may continue to affect your heart health, from high blood pressure to increased risk of stroke or heart attack. People with high stress levels often attempt to self-medicate with cigarettes, coffee, food, and/or alcohol. Try yoga, meditation, or walking in nature as pleasant, easy ways to combat stress. MarinHealth offers a free stress reduction program, or try this free guided meditation series for heart health.
  • Get some sleep! Most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep a night. Chronic sleep deprivation is linked to high blood pressure, obesity, and type 2 diabetes—all risk factors for heart disease.
  • Prioritize your mental health. The link between depression and heart disease is not well understood, but it definitely exists. At least 25% of cardiac patients are also diagnosed with depression, while people who are diagnosed with depression often develop heart disease. In fact, the prevalence of depression among cardiac patients ranges from 20 to 30 percent. It’s not enough to “put on a happy face,” though. Talk therapy, medication, and getting plenty of exercise and sleep can help.
  • Talk to your doctors. ALL your doctors. The above advice is only as good as your ability to follow it. You may be caught in a vicious cycle—for example, stress or depression can keep you awake, and then lack of sleep can cause your blood pressure to rise. On the other hand, depression can manifest through oversleeping and day-time fatigue. You may be tempted to skip your workout or self-medicate with food. If you need to see a therapist, sleep expert, or other specialist, your primary care physician (PCP) can refer you. Make sure your PCP, cardiologist, and any other doctors you see all have each other’s contact information. It’s especially important that every doctor you see be aware of all your prescriptions. Some medications can have dangerous interactions with each other, while others, including certain antidepressants, are not indicated for people with heart disease.

A Gift from the Heart

For more than 30 years, Reta and Bill Haynes have been committed to advancing cardiovascular care at MarinHealth. The Cardiac Catheterization Lab, Interventional Program, Electrophysiology Lab, and Cardiac Surgical Services at MarinHealth Medical Center were all brought to fruition thanks to the generosity of the Haynes Family.

In consultation with Dr. David Sperling, a cardiologist at MarinHealth with whom they had developed a close friendship and collaboration, Reta and Bill founded The Haynes Cardiovascular Institute at MarinHealth Medical Center in 2009. From its inception, the Haynes Cardiovascular Institute has had a reputation for innovation and leading-edge treatments and protocols—a reputation that has helped attract leading cardiology specialists from around the nation. The full range of cardiovascular care provided includes education, prevention, diagnostics, treatment and rehabilitation. The Structural Heart Program, which treats congenital or acquired heart defects with minimally invasive options, is the latest addition to the Haynes Cardiovascular Institute.

Although Bill passed away shortly after the Haynes Cardiovascular Institute was opened, Reta continues to carry on with the family commitment to making a difference in the community and supporting exceptional cardiovascular care.

MarinHealth’s Haynes Cardiovascular Institute recently received a $4.4 million gift from the Harold J. and Reta Haynes Family Foundation. This grant will be used to further shape and support MarinHealth Medical Center’s leading-edge cardiovascular care program.

Learn more about the innovative programs and exceptional, advanced cardiovascular care at the Haynes Cardiovascular Institute at MarinHealth Medical Center.

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