All posts in Heart Health

Simple Steps for Heart Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease, including stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, is the number one cause of death in the United States. Cardiac Rehab Specialist and Registered Dietician Nutritionist at Sauk Prairie Healthcare, Julie Esser, said that although genetics contribute to heart disease, “it’s lifestyle choices that have been driving the numbers.”

There are many small things you can do each day to treat your bodies better and prevent heart disease. For Esser, the best places to start are with nutrition, exercise and stress management.

Eating Well

Identify the unhealthy foods in your diet including sugars, white flour and saturated fats. These usually hide in processed meat, baked goods and sugary drinks. Then, begin to replace these foods with healthier options. For example, switch from 2% to 1% milk or from white flour to whole grain. Work to fill your diet with fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains.

Focusing on Portion Control

Before dishing up your food, use the label to determine serving size. Measure out your portions and set aside time to sit down and eat your meal at the table. To help you adjust to smaller portion sizes, trick your brain and your stomach by using smaller plates and containers.

Exercising Often

Set a goal of 2.5 hours of activity a week, which breaks down to 20 minutes a day. To fit in your 20 minutes of activity, make small simple changes to your daily routine. If you’re out shopping, park further away and force yourself to walk more. During your lunch break, walk around your workplace. Instead of sending your co-worker an email, get up and talk to them and avoid taking the elevator whenever you can.

Finding Accountability

Once you’ve set goals to incorporate regular activity into your daily routine, be sure to hold yourself accountable. Fitness trackers like Fit Bits and cell phone apps can help. You can also sign up for a weekly fitness class or make a plan to workout with a friend.

Managing Your Stress

When your body is under stress, it produces an excess of hormones. When those hormones aren’t released, it can lead to illnesses like heart disease. It’s important to learn to manage that stress and find healthy outlets to release it. Identify what triggers your stress and how you can best relieve it. Call up a friend, go to the gym or spend time on a hobby.

Finding resources in your community to help you set and achieve your health and wellness goals can make all the difference. Professional and certified staff at Sauk Prairie Healthcare’s Wellspring is available to help you make small changes toward a healthier life. For more information, visit:


Heart Disease Basics

With heart disease as the number one cause of death for both American men and women, it is important to know all the facts. The first step in protecting you and your loved ones is heart health education.

What is heart disease?
Heart disease encompasses a number of conditions, such as arrhythmias, cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease), heart valve disease, atrial fibrillation, congenital heart disease, cardiomegaly (enlarged heart) and much more. However, the most common type is coronary heart disease (CHD), also known as coronary artery disease (CAD), which happens when the coronary arteries are either narrow or blocked with a build up of plaque.

Plaque can be caused by a number of things, but the most common culprits are fat and cholesterol in the blood, smoking, too much sugar in the blood and high blood pressure. When the plaque builds up in an artery it can prevent the flow of blood to the heart, which ultimately can cause chest pain or a heart attack.

Risk Factors
Although there are many things that can increase your risk; diet, exercise, stress and smoking habits are the most common contributors. It is important to keep these factors in check using preventative care.

Age, gender and family history can also impact your likelihood of heart disease. Though these factors cannot be controlled, it is important to be aware of them and whether or not you fall in any of the following high-risk categories:

  • Man over age 45
  • Woman over age 55
  • Individual with a father or brother that had heart disease before age 55
  • Individual with a mother or sister that had heart disease before age 65

Many symptoms are subtle and often go undetected until it is too late. Consult a doctor if you have risk factors for heart disease and/or experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain (angina)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Extreme fatigue

For more information regarding heart disease, risk factors and symptoms, please consult your physician.

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How Can I Lower My Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure is often a precursor to heart disease if left alone. Fortunately, there are many small steps you can take to lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease. If followed, these tips can reduce blood pressure in individuals with hypertension or prehypertension:

  • Completing a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity, most if not all, days of the week
  • Reducing stress
  • Quitting smoking if you are a smoker
  • Losing weight if you are overweight or obese
  • Reducing your alcohol consumption to one drink per day
  • Cutting down on sodium
  • Eating heart healthy foods

Although these quick and easy steps may help lower your blood pressure, it may be necessary to consult your doctor if your blood pressure does not improve.