Ted Johnson, cardiology and cardiac services coordinator in Quincy Medical Group’s Cardiology Department
Ted Johnson, cardiology and cardiac services coordinator, Cardiology Department

The American Heart Association has designated February as American Hearth Month to create awareness about heart disease. This year marks the 56th annual commemoration of the federally designated event. 

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. for both men and women. Yet, according to Ted Johnson, the cardiology and cardiac services coordinator in Quincy Medical Group’s Cardiology Department, to increase heart health, people should focus on whole body health.

“Lifestyle choices that negatively impact the heart also negatively impact other organ systems,” Johnson noted.

In the Q&A below, Johnson talks about the major risk factors associated with heart disease, and he identifies simple steps to better manage these factors and increase whole body and heart health.

Q: How does high blood pressure (or hypertension) impact heart and whole body health?

Johnson: High blood pressure often has many contributing factors, including, weight, diet, salt intake, level of activity, and heredity. It causes strain on the heart and artery walls. Obesity and smoking, along with high blood pressure, greatly increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. A normal resting blood pressure for a healthy adult is 120/80. Blood pressure may vary, depending on age and activity levels. Talk to your provider about how to optimize your blood pressure.

Q: What should people know about cholesterol, diet, and heart and whole body health?

Johnson: Cholesterol is a fat-like substance carried within the blood stream. Your body produces cholesterol that helps make certain hormones and build cell membranes. Excess cholesterol comes from the food we eat. Foods with high saturated fats lead to an increase in LDL (low-density lipoprotein), or “bad” cholesterol. This increase in bad cholesterol causes and increases plaque buildup in the artery walls. This increases your risk of having a heart attack and peripheral artery disease (PAD). You can help lower your bad cholesterol by making healthy choices about what you put in your body.

Diets comprised of more vegetables and lean meats, like fish, are a good choice for people looking to control their cholesterol levels. Foods such as red meats, eggs, and dairy tend to be higher in saturated fats and can cause increased levels on LDL within the blood.

Q: Does diabetes impact heart health?

According to the American Heart Association, 65 percent of patients with diabetes die as a result of some sort of cardiovascular disease. Certain races of people are at a higher risk for developing diabetes. African Americans, Hispanics, Asian and Pacific Islanders, as well as Native Americans, are at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes during adulthood. Research studies have shown that obesity (a Body Mass Index, or BMI, above 30) is the leading cause of Type 2 diabetes in the U.S.

Some symptoms of Type 2 diabetes include fatigue or tiring more easily, a need to urinate often, as well as dry mouth or being constantly thirsty. If you are experiencing these types of symptoms, talk to your doctor about being tested. Early management is key to controlling this disease.

Q: Much of the U.S. population is struggling with being overweight or being obese. How does this impact heart health and what are your tips for helping people with this?

Johnson: According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, being overweight is defined as a BMI above 25, and obesity is defined as a BMI over 30. Extra weight increases the risk of many diseases, including but not limited to, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes. All of these conditions largely contribute to cardiovascular disease.

A healthy diet and regular exercise are good ways to control and maintain a healthy weight. The American Heart Association recommends a diet containing greater amounts of plant-based foods. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes are all part of a heart healthy diet.

Diets comprised of more animal-derived and processed foods are not recommended. Popular heart healthy diets include Mediterranean style diets and the DASH diet.

As for regular exercise, the American College of Cardiology recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity. Some may ask, how do you know what moderate activity is? You can measure that by heart rate!

We calculate your target heart rate using a simple formula: 220 – your age, and 85 percent of that number is your target heart rate for moderate exercise. For example, if you are 40 years old, here’s the formula and answer: 220 – 40 = 180, and 85 percent of 180 is 153, so your target heart rate is 153 bpm (beats per min). For a 40 year old, we would recommend you keep your heart rate between 50 and 85 percent (90-153 bpm) during exercise for optimal results.

Q: What services and resources does Quincy Medical Group offer to be heart healthy through all stages of life?

Johnson: We have a highly skilled team of doctors, nurses, and techs with years of advanced cardiac experience. QMG also has an excellent Nutrition Services department dedicated to helping people achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

We also provide heart imaging services such as, echocardiograms, stress testing to identify coronary disease, and wireless remote heart monitoring for palpitations and arrhythmias. In addition, we offer an exceptional Cardiac Rehab team, certified by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR). We provide unparalleled care for those recovering from a multitude of heart conditions. Learn more about us at https://quincymedgroup.com/heart.