Get Heart Smart

Heart disease is often called a silent killer, with many people not aware they have it until it becomes life-threatening. Preventive care is the best way to protect your heart health, and you can start by reviewing the resources on this page.

Heart disease is often called a silent killer, with many people not aware they have it until it becomes life-threatening. Preventive care is the best way to protect your heart health, and you can start by reviewing the resources on this page.

Do a Quick Health-risk Check

Plug your numbers into the Body Mass Index Calculator to start a conversation with your doctor about your risk for common conditions.

Long-Life Tip: Know Your Numbers

Source: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

Cholesterol

A waxy substance produced by the liver.

Less than
200*
Too much can make it harder for blood to circulate.

Blood Sugar

The amount of sugar in your blood.

Less than
100*
The amount of sugar in your blood.
TWO HOURS AFTER EATING

Blood Pressure

The force of the blood against the arteries when the heart beats

Less than
120/80
(Top number) and resets (bottom number).

BMI

BODY WEIGHT
Your ideal body weight depends on your gender, age, height and frame.

Less than
18.6—24.9
BMI provides a good guideline.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is meant to be a screening tool for disease risk, used in combination with other assessments made by your healthcare provider. BMI standards can vary in accuracy, depending on your age, gender, ethnicity, frame, health status and other factors. That’s why it’s important to continue the conversation with your healthcare provider after you use this calculator.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A Message from Gbenga Ogedegbe, MD, MPH

I believe as physicians, it’s not our job to just take care of patients in a hospital, but to also ensure that the communities they live in support a healthy lifestyle. One way to solve the problem is to bring health equity into the community – where patients live, where they eat, where they work, and where they play.

A Message from Jennifer Hermina Mieres, MD

Patients need to be allowed to make decisions regarding their health and wellbeing in partnership with their doctors. People who have a partnership with their medical professionals, develop the trust needed to become empowered to make decisions and be active participants in designing a treatment plan with the steps needed to improve their own health and the overall health and wellness of their families and community.

Source: Bennington College – ALUMNI NEWS, AWARDS AND HONORS

A Message from Gbenga Ogedegbe, MD, MPH

My research is about developing strategies to reduce the racial gap and the morbidity gap in terms of cardiovascular disease – hypertension, high blood pressure and stroke. If you look at Black men today, they have the highest risk of cardiovascular disease, are more likely to die of colon cancer and are more likely to die of hypertension. If Black men don’t come into clinics, how do we address their healthcare needs? People know they have high blood pressure; they are aware of that. But life gets in the way.

One way to solve the problem is to bring health into the community (barber shops, senior centers, churches…). So we developed an alternative model of care – community-based interventions, across all five boroughs – and pack healthcare vans and screen for very basic stuff: blood pressure, diabetes and have they had their colonoscopy or not. We can engage them more and attract them to come to clinics to receive their care. Going to communities and talking to folks about their health is not foreign to me. I’m very comfortable talking to people of different ages and different cultures.

A Message from Jennifer Hermina Mieres, MD

Diversity is key to engaging patients in their own health care, says Dr. Jennifer Mieres, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Northwell Health in New York. “It’s all about improving patient outcomes,” she says. The goal is “to deliver culturally inclusive health care and effective communication in partnership with our communities to achieve health equity.

A cardiologist and researcher, Mieres recalls numerous encounters from her days in clinical practice in which black patients facing a cardiovascular procedure they’d never heard of were frequently reluctant to give their consent to have it done – until she walked into the room. “When they saw me, they relaxed,” she recalls. Mieres made it a point to speak in plain language about the procedure and to appeal to the patient’s values. “In these medical situations, when someone is giving you new, complex information with orders you must follow to save your life, it’s scary,” Mieres says. “People need to be empowered to make decisions in these situations. It’s not about doing something because the doctor says so. It’s also about doing what you need to do to be there for your family, your community and, most importantly, for yourself.

What Can You Do to Reduce Your Risk of Developing Heart Disease?

Start by adopting healthy habits now that you feel you can achieve.

Eat low-fat meals

A healthy diet is one of the keys to preventing heart disease. When trying to improve your diet, it is important to remember that it’s the overall pattern of your choices that counts.

When planning your meals, try to eat:

  • a wide variety of fruits and vegetables
  • whole grains and products made up mostly of whole grains
  • healthy sources of protein (mostly plants, such as legumes and nuts; fish and seafood; low-fat or nonfat dairy; and lean unprocessed meat and poultry)
  • liquid non-tropical vegetable oils
  • minimally processed foods
  • foods with little or no added sugars and salt

Make fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins the “stars” of your meals, rather than side dishes. Whether you are considering eating less meat or giving it up entirely, the benefits are clear: less risk of disease and improved health and well-being. Fresh, nutrient-dense foods provide energy to help you power through your day. If you must buy prepared foods, aim for those that have few ingredients – and that you can pronounce! 

Manage stress

Everyone experiences stress. Sometimes it’s over a good thing, like a new job or an upcoming wedding. But when you stress about things like working too much or paying bills, it can really take a toll on your health. Stress is considered chronic when it is constant and your body is in high gear off and on for long periods of time. Chronic stress may lead to high blood pressure, which can increase risk for heart attack and stroke.

Figuring out how stress affects you is an important step in dealing with it. Identify sources of stress in your life and look for ways to reduce them. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help you manage stress, such as:

  • Taking a walk, meditating or practicing yoga
  • Spending time with friends and family—it’s important to maintain social connections and talk with people who support you
  • Maintaining a positive attitude
  • Relaxing and listening to music
  • Finding a stimulating hobby that can distract you from negative thoughts or worries

A healthcare professional can also help you find ways to manage your stress. The Benefit Funds’ Wellness Member Assistance Program offers confidential support to help you or your family. Learn more by calling (646) 473-6900.

Exercise regularly

The benefits of regular physical activity cannot be denied. Even if you haven’t exercised in years, today is the day you can begin. Take the first step by walking – it’s free and easy to do. Remember, something is better than nothing, and it all adds up to a healthier, happier you!

Dress the part: Wear comfortable clothing and properly fitted sneakers or flat shoes with laces.

Make time: Start slowly and gradually build up to at least 30 minutes of activity on most or all days of the week.

Set achievable goals: Don’t expect too much too fast; you will only be setting yourself up for disappointment – and that makes it harder to keep going.

Have fun with it: Choose activities that you like and add variety – that way, you won’t become bored.

Get a workout buddy: Having family or a friend join you will make you more likely to stick with it.

Keep track and celebrate your success: rewarding yourself for your success with non-food treats will help motivate you.

Maintain a healthy weight

The benefits of maintaining a healthy weight go far beyond improved energy. Losing weight, or maintaining a healthy weight, will help you enjoy a higher quality of life as well.

When your weight is in a healthy range:

  • Your blood circulates more efficiently
  • You are less likely to develop diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, breathing problems and sleep apnea
  • You may feel better and have more energy to make other positive health changes

Keeping your weight consistent can take just as much work as losing weight. Once you understand how to balance your calorie intake with the amount of exercise you do, make sure you have a social network of family and friends who will support your healthy habits, and challenge yourself to find ways to stick with it.

Quit smoking

There is no doubt about it — this is one of the most important things you can do to improve your health and add years to your life. Quitting is not easy — but you can do it. You’re more likely to succeed if you prepare for the cravings and feelings that come with quitting. Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical, and your body will need to get used to being without it. Talk with your doctor to learn whether you may need a medical method to successfully quit.

There are some things you can do to make quitting easier. Decide when you are going to quit and what method (or combination of methods) you will use.

  • You can quit “cold turkey” by stopping all at once. This method works best for some people because it doesn’t drag out the quitting process.
  • You can cut down on the number of cigarettes you smoke per day until you stop completely.
  • You can smoke part of each cigarette, reducing the amount until you stop completely.

Have some healthy snacks available for when you get the urge to smoke, like fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, air-popped popcorn and chewing gum. Finding enjoyable ways to spend time can also help prevent you from feeling tempted to light up. Try a new hobby that occupies your hands, like painting, knitting, gardening or playing an instrument. You got this!

Statistics

A study found that women who took regular brisk walks raised their levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol, correlating to a 50%+ reduction in coronary events.

Heart attack patients in a formal exercise program experienced a reduced death rate of 20% to 25%.

The most physically active study subjects had disease rates 50% lower than those who were sedentary.

In 15 controlled trials, exercise training was found to increase peak cardiac output by over 20%.

Source: Healthline

Heart-Healthy Fitness Classes

  • Retirees: Heart and Soul Afro Cardio Jam

    Wednesday, September 28 at 1:00 pm

    Come dance, connect and move on a soulful dance journey to the rhythms of African drums.

    Meeting ID: 895 9987 4473

    Passcode: 889260

  • Retirees: Heart and Soul Afro Cardio Jam

    Wednesday, October 5 at 1:00 pm

    Come dance, connect and move on a soulful dance journey to the rhythms of African drums.

    Meeting ID: 895 9987 4473

    Passcode: 889260

  • Retirees: Latin Cardio Dance

    Friday, October 7 at 11:00 am

    An exhilarating cardio class set to Latin music that uses easy-to follow choreography to keep you moving and grooving while toning your body and burning fat.

    Meeting ID: 851 0097 9301

    Passcode: 229593

Resources

Access free or reduced-cost community services and programs close to where you live or work with findhelp.org. Search for support in your community, including housing assistance, emotional well-being resources, child care, legal help and more.

Visit findhelp.1199SEIUBenefits.org to get started.

findhelp Logo

The information contained in this site is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives. See terms of use.