The Heart of the Matter: Prioritizing Cardiovascular Health

Feb 8, 2024


Cardiologist Michael Gardner, MD, works with patients across the range of heart disease in the communities of Tillamook, Portland and the Columbia Gorge. Dr. Gardner chose this field because heart disease is very common, but treatments are rapidly improving. He believes he can help people live longer, healthier lives through prevention and treatment.

Tillamook Medical Minute
The Heart of the Matter: Prioritizing Cardiovascular Health

Michael Gardner, MD, cardiologist at Adventist Health Tillamook

In the United States, heart disease remains the leading cause of death, claiming more lives each year than all forms of cancer combined. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one person dies every 33 seconds from cardiovascular disease, amounting to approximately 695,000 Americans each year. This staggering statistic underscores the critical importance of prioritizing heart health in our daily lives.

The American Heart Association 2021 statistics highlight that nearly half of all U.S. adults have some form of cardiovascular disease, a figure largely propelled by the increasing prevalence of high blood pressure among Americans. These numbers are not just statistics; they represent families, friends and loved ones whose lives are significantly impacted by heart disease.

However, the silver lining is that heart disease is largely preventable. Lifestyle choices play a monumental role in heart health, offering a beacon of hope for those looking to improve their cardiovascular wellness. Here are some practical steps you can take to protect your heart and increase your chances of a long, healthy life:

  1. Maintain a healthy diet: A heart-healthy diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. The Mediterranean diet, for example, has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, as noted in studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
  2. Stay active: Regular physical activity can help maintain a healthy weight, lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease. The AHA recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week.
  3. Quit smoking: Smoking is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Quitting smoking can drastically reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, improving your overall health.
  4. Manage stress: Chronic stress can contribute to heart disease, especially if it leads to unhealthy coping behaviors like overeating or smoking. Techniques such as mindfulness, meditation and regular exercise can help manage stress levels.
  5. Monitor your health: Regular check-ups with your healthcare provider to monitor blood pressure, cholesterol levels and other risk factors for heart disease are crucial. Early detection and management of these conditions can prevent heart disease from developing or worsening.
  6. Limit alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to increased blood pressure, heart failure and stroke.

Incorporating these habits into your daily routine can significantly impact your heart health. Remember, it’s never too late to start making healthier choices. I’ve witnessed firsthand the transformative power of lifestyle changes on heart health. By adopting a proactive approach to cardiovascular wellness, we can turn the tide against heart disease and pave the way for a healthier future.

Let’s make heart health a priority — not just during February American Heart Month but every month. Together, we can combat the prevalence of heart disease and enjoy longer, healthier lives.