3 Easy Ways to Improve your Cardiovascular Health

3 Easy Ways to Improve your Cardiovascular Health

If you are one of almost half of all adults in the United States who are afflicted with a type of cardiovascular disease, chances are you are looking for ways of managing or maintaining your health while also not breaking the bank. Even if you currently don't suffer from cardiovascular disease, the American Heart Association predicts that by 2035 over 130 million adults will suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease. According to an update to 2018 heart disease and stroke statistics published in the medical journal Circulation by the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease has risen to the number one leading cause of death for adults in the U.S., surpassing cancer. Cardiovascular disease is defined as coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, or high blood pressure. Cardiovascular diseases produce not only grave health concerns but economic burdens on a consumer and global level as well. Luckily there are several manageable solutions to help improve and maintain your cardiovascular health.

The High Cost of Cardiovascular Disease

The rising cost of healthcare has become a major concern for adults in the United States. When faced with illness many Americans are confronted with the additional burden of lack of adequate financial and medical coverage due to the cost of care, pharmaceuticals, and equipment. According to the American Heart Association, of the 10 leading diagnostic groups, the greatest number of surgical procedures were conducted in the cardiovascular system. 2016 saw the most heart transplant surgeries performed ever in the United States, 3,191.

The average cost of a hospital stay in the U.S. due to cardiovascular disease can range anywhere from the low, low price of $40,000 for a common procedure such as carotid endarterectomies (a blocked carotid artery) to $80,0000 for a heart transplant, costing the U.S. an estimated $329.97 billion (that's with a B) in direct and indirect costs in the year 2013.

Risk Factors

Clogged artery drawing

According to the same journal by the American Heart Association, in 2018 roughly 720,000 Americans experienced a new coronary event while about 335,000 adults had a recurrent event. A coronary event is defined by the American Heart Association as first hospitalized myocardial infarction (heart attack) or death. Meaning, over one million Americans suffered illness or death due to cardiovascular disease.

Primary contributing risk factors to cardiovascular disease are:

  1. Hypertension (High blood pressure): When the force of blood traveling through the blood vessels is consistently too high.
  2. High cholesterol: Cholesterol is produced naturally by the body and is necessary on the cellular level. However, too much cholesterol ingested in the diet forms thick, hard deposits on the inside of the artery walls blocking blood flow.
  3. Diabetes mellitus: A group of diseases resulting in a high level of sugar or glucose in the blood. You may know them as type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes among others.

But Wait, There's Good News

The truth is that although heart disease is a very real and very imminent danger for many Americans, it is in large part preventable. High-risk factors for cardiovascular disease can be managed by simple changes in lifestyle and diet habits. While cardiovascular diseases are attributed to many health factors, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are the primary contributors. Behaviors such as exercise, diet, and tobacco use are the primary ways of controlling high blood pressure and high cholesterol and therefore greatly improving your cardiovascular health (source).

Get Heart Healthy: The Big Three

Smoking and Tobacco Use

Fist smashing many cigarettes

In the late nineties, giant orange advertisements by way of televisions and billboards began to warn the public of the truth about cigarettes, the truth? The deadly effects of tobacco use, especially among adolescents, and the deceptive practices of tobacco corporations. Although the Truth anti-smoking initiative, among many other private and government-led programs, has successfully reduced the rate of teenage smokers from 23% in 1998 to 6% today, tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and globally. The medical journal Circulation estimates that tobacco use accounts for 7.2 million deaths worldwide as of 2015.

If you don't currently smoke, great! You are already one step ahead to improving your cardiovascular health. If you are one of the millions of people around the world who do smoke don't worry, there are many methods to quit.

  • Free online resources: Organizations such as the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, National Cancer Institute, and the Truth Initiative's BecomeAnEx, offer information and local free or low-cost resources to quit smoking. Resources include customized quit plans and various other interactive guides and tools (for free!).
  • Pharmaceutical options: Pharmaceutical options can aim to reduce your cravings for nicotine or help with side effects of quitting. They include nicotine replacements and non-nicotine medications. 
    • Nicotine replacement medicines: Treatments that include nicotine and aim to help the user quit by slowly reducing the amount of nicotine ingested. Nicotine replacement medicines are available in gums, lozenges, patches, and sprays.
    • Non-nicotine prescription medicines: Help reduce the cravings for nicotine and its pleasurable effects on the brain by blocking the flow of chemicals in your brain that makes you crave that cigarette.

Congratulations, you are already one step towards quitting! However, when deciding to quit smoking, always consult with a physician to determine the healthiest method for your specific needs.

Exercise

Eldelry women hula hooping

Recent evidence suggests that substituting as little as 10 minutes of sedentary time with 10 minutes of light-intense activity is associated with a 9% lower mortality risk. To improve your cardiovascular health even more, increase the amount and intensity of physical activity to 15 minutes of moderate-intense or vigorous-intense exercise.

  • Moderate-intense activities: Gardening, brisk walking, dancing, vacuuming or other household chores, jumping rope (anything that can get your heart rate up for a minimum of ten minutes).
  • Vigorous-intense activity: Running, hiking, seated aerobics, wheelchair exercises, boxing, heavy yard work, cycling, yoga, swimming, among many more. When seeking a moderately-intense exercise you'll find yourself requiring a greater amount of effort, could possibly be out of breath, and might break a sweat.

Chances are you find yourself with 10 minutes of sedentary time often throughout the day; Breaks at work, while the kids are napping, scrolling on social media, or the extra ten minutes in bed in the morning. Replacing sedentary activities with 10-15 minutes of physical activity is your next step towards better cardiovascular health, look at you! As always, you and your doctor can better discuss what amount and type of physical activity is ideal for your specific needs.

Nutrition

Healthy food

According to the American Heart Association, 45.4% of deaths in the U.S. that are caused by heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes can be attributed to poor dietary habits. These poor habits include high intake of processed meats, high sodium intake, low consumption of seafood omega-3 fats, low intake of vegetables and fruits, and high consumption of sugary beverages. Eating healthier sounds a lot harder than it actually is. Simple substitutions in your current diet can greatly improve your nutrition.

  1. Choose foods low in saturated and trans fats (ideal for reducing cholesterol): Artificial trans fats are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid.
  2. Ditch the sodium (salt): Most of our sodium intake comes from packaged, processed foods, not the shaker on the table.
  3. Add more veggies and fruits: Replace that morning coffee with a smoothie, or grab two apples on your way out the door instead of grabbing that donut.

Equipping Yourself and Your Patients

Now that you know the three biggest ways to improve your cardiovascular health, equip yourself with the proper tools.

Home Care

Wrist worn blood pressure monitor

According to the American Heart Association, after heart attack (blocked blood flow to the heart) and stroke (blocked blood flow to the brain), venous thromboembolism (a blood clot that starts in a vein) is the third leading vascular diagnosis. There are two types of VTE:

  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) - A clot in a deep vein, usually in the leg.
  • Pulmonary embolism (PE) - Occurs when a DVT clot breaks free and blocks some or all of the blood supply.

Treatments for VTE include blood thinning medications, surgery, compression garments, and compression pumps. Compression pumps are designed to deliver proper compression to specific areas so that blood within the areas does not clot. Vascular therapy pumps can be used in a hospital or home care setting. The ArjoHuntleigh Flowtron Excel Pump is an industry leader and available in economical pre-owned options. MFI offers vascular therapy pumps in all price ranges and vascular therapy pump accessories in all sizes.

Tracking your progress can help you stay motivated when trying to increase your physical activity. An inexpensive, doctor-office quality, wrist-worn blood pressure monitor can work just as well, if not better, than fancy gadgets. American Diagnostic Corporation is a brand you have probably seen in your doctor's office. You can now take professional quality blood pressure measurements without spending a professional price.

For Healthcare Professionals

patient in hospital bed hooked up to ECG machine

The rising incidents of procedures in hospitals, emergency rooms, and clinics due to poor cardiovascular health means your equipment needs to be durable and reliable enough to meet the demands of today's health climate.

Pulse Oximeters: Assess patient oxygen saturation and pulse rate. MFI carries a variety of pulse oximeters and accessories like SpO2 sensors, adapter cables, patient cables, extension cables, and more. Brands include industry leaders such as Masimo, Edan, and Nellcor.

ECG/EKG Machines and Supplies: Accurately measure and record your patient's heart activity. MFI's range of ECG/EKG machines and supplies include electrodes, software, leadwires, paper, and more. Brands include industry leaders such as Cardioline, Bio Protech, GE Healthcare, Philips, and Skintact.

Blood Pressure Monitors: Blood pressure monitors and accessories work together to provide a non-invasive method of measuring a patient's systolic and diastolic blood pressure. MFI Medical carries a variety of blood pressure monitors and accessories like ambulatory monitors, replacement cuffs and hoses, transducers, connectors, converters, and more from brands like Schiller, QRS, GE Healthcare, Marquette, Nihon Kohden, Philips, Sony, Welch Allyn, and Abbott Medex.

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