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CHP: How to Love Your Heart, for Heart Month
Submitted by Jonna Gaberman, MD ,
04:17PM / Wednesday, February 14, 2024
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Dr. Jonna Gaberman is CHP Berkshires Director of Adult Medicine and primary care physician at CHP Neighborhood Health Center in Pittsfield.
It's National Heart Month, so now is a good time to give some TLC to your body's most important muscle. Prevention is always the first step in keeping your heart healthy, but you can also make changes to address any existing heart conditions. 
Key risk factors impacting the heart include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and smoking, including second-hand smoke exposure. 
What are some meaningful changes you can make to care for your heart? First, have a basic heart health screening with your primary care provider or with CHP Mobile Health. This will include a blood pressure check and screening for high cholesterol and diabetes.  
If your blood pressure is elevated, set a goal to lower your salt intake to under 2,000 mg per day, and take care to read labels of soups and other foods for sodium content. Eating more fruits and vegetables, and getting more physical activity will help, too. You can also help your heart by eliminating or reducing alcohol use, as alcohol can contribute to elevated blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythm.  
Diabetes screening is typically done with an A1C blood test, which indicates your blood sugar level over the past three months. If the result suggests a risk of diabetes, it's time to make some changes in your diet and exercise routine. Focus on whole grains, veggies, fruits, beans, nuts, lean proteins like fish and chicken, and healthy fats. 
If you don't have regular time to exercise, try parking further away from your destination and walking more, or take the stairs more often at work. Any amount of physical activity is good, so, when possible, take a walk, a bike ride, go on a hike, or take a yoga class. Find a friend, family member, or colleague to join you and choose an activity that you enjoy. If you are a CHP patient and need a hand getting started, ask for a referral to our CHP Nutrition team. 
If you are a smoker, talk to your PCP about different medications and strategies to help you to kick the habit, because smoking – and second-hand smoke – can also raise the risk of heart problems. There are many tools to help you quit, and the more often you try to stop, the more likely you will succeed.  
Taking care of your heart health will impact your overall wellness and your mood. As always, check in with your CHP primary care provider. We are here to help. 
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