Dawn Mangine

    Every year, about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack, with about 525,000 of those being a first heart attack. More alarmingly, 210,000 heart attacks annually happen in a person who has already suffered a previous heart attack.

    Heart disease kills about 610,000 people each year in the United States, making it the leading cause of death in men and women.

    5 Tips to Promote Heart Health

    Here are a few things you can teach about keeping patients’ hearts healthy.

    1. Quit smoking. Cigarette smoking contributes to heart disease because it damages blood vessels, making them thicken and grow narrower. This in turn, makes the heart beat faster and work harder, raising blood pressure.
    2. Eat healthfully. Eating fresh foods, rather than highly processed foods, helps to keep the heart healthy. Prevent high cholesterol by choosing foods low in saturated and trans fats, low in cholesterol, and high in fiber – fresh meats, fish, fruits and vegetables, and fats like olive oil and avocado. Limiting salt can keep blood pressure low.
    3. Manage stress. High stress levels can contribute to behaviors that have a negative impact on the heart. Some people’s response to stress is to overeat or smoke, which contribute to high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Learning ways to manage stress through meditation, activity, or maintaining a positive outlook are better for patients.
    4. Take the meds. If a patient has been diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or another condition that is controlled through medication adherence, then it is important that the healthcare team communicate clearly with the patient.
    5. Get physical. Physical activity is the best way to strengthen the heart and improve cardiac function and stamina. Exercise helps control weight, blood pressure, stress, and sugar levels. Aiming for 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise is ideal. Taking a walk, gardening, lifting light weights, or doing yoga all count toward exercise. Healthcare providers should talk with their patients about what they can do to safely and effectively get physically active.

    Benefits of Cardiac Rehabilitation

    • Lessen your chances for another heart attack
    • Control symptoms of heart disease, such as chest pain or shortness of breath
    • Stop or reverse the damage that has been done to blood vessels of the heart
    • Improve stamina and strength
    • Get back to your usual activities, including work, regular exercise, and hobbies

    Recent studies show that people who complete a cardiac rehabilitation program can add up to five years to their life expectancy.

    Pocket Nurse offers heart models and anatomical charts that discuss disease states so students know how to speak to patients about heart health and cardiac rehabilitation.



    CDC, Heart Disease resources

    Heart.org, Healthy Living, Stress Management

    American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR), Resources for Patients