Keep your heart healthy

February 2, 2011

February is American Heart Month.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says heart disease is the leading cause of death among both men and women in the United States, claiming more lives than cancer.
Heart disease can strike at any time. Symptoms of a heart-related incident include:
  • Chest discomfort/pressure/squeezing or pain that lasts more than five minutes or goes away and comes back.
  • Discomfort in other parts of the upper body — in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw, stomach or abdomen.
  • Shortness of breath (which may or may not occur with chest discomfort).
  • A cold sweat.
  • Nausea.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Awareness that your heart is not beating normally (such as rapid heartbeats or palpitations).

Among ways to keep your heart healthy are:

  • Better nutrition. Select lean meats and poultry, as well as fat-free or low-fat dairy products. Also, choose foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods.
  • Cut back on beverages and foods with added sugar.
  • Avoid salt — it’s almost everywhere and in everything. Become a food label-reader and ensure that you consume fewer than 2.3 grams of sodium a day (about a teaspoon of table salt).
  • Stop smoking and avoid second-hand smoke.
  • After consulting with your doctor, consider starting an exercise routine. Even just 30 minutes per day can help reduce your risk of heart disease. Exercise also helps to reduce everyday stress.
  • Talk with your doctor about risk factors for heart disease, which include blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride numbers, body mass, waist measurements, blood sugar level, and an eating plan best for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions until you understand.
  • If you have diabetes, follow your doctor’s instructions for controlling your blood sugar. Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

If you suspect you are having a heart attack or other cardiac event, such as a stroke, get help quickly:

  • Stop your activity, sit or lie down, and call 911.
  • If you can get to the hospital faster by car, have someone else drive you. Do not drive yourself to the hospital.
  • At the hospital, immediately alert emergency personnel that you may be suffering a heart attack.

For more information, click on the following link:

For those covered by Medicare, note that Medicare covers cardiovascular screenings that check for high cholesterol and triglyceride levels every five years. Medicare pays for these tests, so you would need only to pay your Medicare co-pay. Medicare also provides for a yearly wellness exam by your physician.

For more information on Railroad Medicare, click on the following link: