Learn About Your Heart...
Made Simple

By Nicolas Shammas, MD

A new, comprehensive sourcebook for
heart and vascular disease patients

Cardiovascular Health Topics

Statistics about Heart and Blood Vessel Diseases in the United States
Structure and Function of the Heart and Blood Vessels
Diseases of the Blood Vessels of the Heart
Surgical Therapies for the Cardiovascular Patient
Peripheral Vascular Disease
Diseases of the Blood Vessels of the Head and Neck
Strokes: How to Survive Them and How to Prevent Them
Valvular Heart Disease
Heart Rhythms: How to Recognize Them and Treat Them
Congestive Heart Failure
11. Understanding Cardiomyopathy, or Weak Heart Muscle
12. Children and Heart Disease
13. Diseases of the Pericardium
14. Systemic Illnesses, Infections and Drugs that Affect the Heart
15. Erectile Dysfunction: a Vascular Disease
16. Cardiovascular Disease Prevention
17. Heart Healthy Nutritional Tips
18. Cardiac Rehabilitation
19. Medications for Cardiovascular Disorders
20. Heart Tests You Need to Know
21. Learn What to Do in a Medical Emergency
22. How to Choose Your Doctor and Hospital
23. Medical Research and How You Can Get Involved
24. Taking the Next Step — A Few Community Resources to Help You Live More Healthfully
25. How Much Did You Learn from This Book: Take a Simple Test


Suzanne M. Hartung, BA

Taking the next step Now that you've read (or at least skimmed) these materials from medical professionals and you're motivated to make some changes so that you can live a more healthful and fulfilling life, what's the next step?

We've outlined in this chapter some simple ("simple" as in "basic," not necessarily "easy") steps we all can take. Then we suggest several organizations that can provide you additional information to help you live a longer, more healthful life.

What steps can I take on my own to live a more heart-healthy life?

  1. Commit to your own well-being. Chances are that you are involved in helping others lead happy, healthful, and productive lives but that you pay little attention to your own well-being. Now's the time to take just a little of that energy that you've been giving to others and focus on yourself as well. You and your loved ones will benefit from you being healthier and happier.

  2. Don't smoke. If you currently smoke, stop. There are plenty of self-help materials and products, as well as support groups, available to boost your resolve.

  3. Get moving! Try to exercise at least 30 minutes a day for at least 5 days per week. If you can do more than that, great—do it! If, however, you can't do that much, do what you can. Any type of movement is better than none, and it's a step in the right direction. The physical and emotional results of exercise are great.

  4. Eat healthfully. This doesn't mean you're restricted to twigs and berries—there are many tasty, healthful foods available these days, and there are plenty of resource people available to help you. Start with your local supermarket—ask to speak with the nutritionist or dietitian on staff.

  5. Maintain a healthy weight. If you engage in a daily struggle with your weight, try to keep your focus on eating the right foods in moderation and engaging in as much exercise as you can tolerate. "Doing the right thing" feels great and is bound to help improve your health, even if you don't see dramatic results right away. Take small steps.

  6. Find a doctor who is knowledgeable and approachable and get checked out. Learn your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, etc. Do what you need to do to decrease your blood pressure, increase your "good" cholesterol, and decrease your "bad" and "ugly" cholesterols. If you are experiencing other health challenges, work with your doctor to develop a plan to address these issues as well. View your doctor as your professional consultant and partner—you're in charge, and he or she will help you meet your goals.

  7. Learn the symptoms for stroke and heart attack. See Chapter 7 for stroke symptoms and Chapter 21 for heart attack symptoms. Bottom line: if you are unsure of your symptoms, trust your instincts, call 9-1-1, and get to the hospital.

  8. Learn what to do if you suspect you're having a heart attack or stroke. During a heart attack or stroke, every minute counts. Learn these basic principles and follow them. If you are unsure of your symptoms, always assume it may be a heart attack or stroke. Never worry about a false alarm. Call 9-1-1—never drive yourself or someone else to the hospital. Keep an updated list of all your medications, your doctors, and the person to call in the event of an emergency in your wallet or purse and automobile glove compartment at all times.

  9. Seek medical attention promptly if experiencing foot pain at night, along with discomfort in your calves when walking a short distance.

  10. Reduce and manage stress. The pace of life today is very hectic. It's heartening (pun definitely intended) to see people starting to take control of their lives, reviewing and redefining their priorities, and living more simply. Of course, this is not as easy as it sounds, but those who practice it say it has changed their lives. Examine your routines to see how you can live a less hectic,more comfortable life. Your health will be enhanced and you will find a greater enjoyment in your life.

What are some organizations that can be a resource to people wanting to live more heart-healthy lives?

There are many organizations throughout the United States that are designed to promote healthful living. Often, local branches of national organizations exist. An example is the American Heart Association (AHA), the oldest and largest national nonprofit voluntary health organization in the world. Its mission is to reduce disability and death from cardiovascular diseases and stroke. By the year 2010, the American Heart Association plans to reduce coronary heart disease and stroke risk by 25%.

If my community doesn't have a branch of the American Heart Association, where else can I look for information on heart-healthy living?

Although each community is unique, health-related information often is available through the following resources:

  • Your personal physician

  • Local medical society

  • Local or county health department

  • School nurses

  • Parish nurses

  • United Way INFO-Link (information and referral)

  • Family and friends.

In addition, check local phone books or surf the Internet for information regarding local or regional medical societies, health departments, the United Way INFO-Link, etc. Many communities have wonderful resources, including community education programs regarding nutrition, exercise, and screenings for stroke, blood pressure, and cholesterol. CPR classes often are available, as well.

In addition, the American Heart Association, the Mayo Clinic, and the Cleveland Clinic have excellent websites where you can get the information you need, sign up for free newsletters, get some more detailed information about health conditions, etc.

What are some helpful websites for heart-healthy information?

Some helpful websites include:

What if I don't have a computer or Internet access at home?

Check your local public library, which probably has public-access computers and can help you in your search for information. Reference librarians will be happy to assist you.

Keep moving...today is the first day of the rest of your life!

It's not just a catchy phrase for greeting cards—today really is the first day of the rest of your life! We hope that this information is helpful to you and that you will be able to weave some of this information into your life. Partner with your doctor and some of the fine community resources available to you. Best wishes for a healthful, happy life!

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