February is American Heart Month, so it’s the perfect time to educate your patients on maintaining heart health. It is also a great time to take a new approach to Valentine’s Day. Instead of focusing on going on a special date with a significant other or wallowing in self-pity with a tub of ice cream, dedicate the month to having a healthy heart and encouraging patients to do the same.
For cardiologists, it is easy to prescribe a drug for heart disease. Drugs can help in managing the disease, but many aspects of the person’s lifestyle can also contribute. Make sure your patient is aware of these heart health guidelines.
6 Tips for Heart Health
1. Dental Hygiene
Periodontal (gum) disease can lead bacteria to enter the bloodstream, where the heart becomes affected. Check your patient’s mouth during their appointment, and make sure they are practicing good dental hygiene habits. You are not a dentist, but you can still encourage them to floss every day and take care of their teeth.
2. Move around
Staying stagnant for long periods of time is never a healthy option. Even if you exercise regularly, you should get up and move around every once in a while. Sitting in one spot is bad for your health in general, but can be associated specifically with heart health.
It can be hard to be active if your patient has a job that requires them to sit for long hours. To support a healthy heart, stand up once in a while or take a short walk while on lunch. Also, if traveling long distances, make a few stops just to get out of the car and minimize the risk of a blood clot.
3. Maintain healthy blood sugar levels
Diabetes is a huge risk factor for heart disease. Knowing what to eat and what not to eat could make a huge difference in heart health. To sustain healthy blood sugar levels, guide your patient to eat healthy fats, fiber, reduce stress, and get enough sleep. Stress can cause a person to eat foods that are delicious, but may not be the best in keeping up with heart health. Healthy fats from nuts, seeds, avocados, and other foods will help heart health and lifestyle improve.
4. Quit smoking & avoid secondhand smoke
The thing that bothers you most as a cardiologist could possibly be the patient who comes in with heart disease but still continues to smoke. Despite the many times you have told them to stop, they just really “need” it.
Damaging the linings of your arteries, smoking increases the risk for heart attacks and other related incidents. It can be difficult to get your patient to stop smoking, but you can make a difference. Also, remind them that secondhand smoke is harmful and to avoid that as well.
5. Reduce Stress
As stated above, high levels of stress can lead a person to stress-eat foods that could lead to diabetes. “Broken Heart Syndrome” is a condition caused by severe stress that affects the heart. Everyday stress can affect heart disease in more subtle ways.
It is important that your patient finds a way to deal with stress whether it is yoga, exercise, meditating, or other methods. As the doctor, you can influence your patient to keep a positive attitude during difficult times and remind them that laughing can be great medicine.
6. Be honest
This applies to all fields of healthcare, but try to make sure your patients are honest about their habits. There’s only so much you can do, but making them feel comfortable could start a good doctor-patient relationship. Let them know what you want to know and how it can affect their heart health.
In turn, it is important that you be honest with your patient. It can be difficult to tell them some things, but it could change their behaviors. They might not even know that certain things are be affecting their heart, so tell them.