Better Heart Health for Pacemaker Patients
Maintain a Healthy Weight
One way to help reduce your risk of heart disease is to maintain a healthy weight. You can calculate your body mass index (BMI) to find out if you're at a healthy weight for you.
You can also measure your waist circumference to help determine if you’re at a healthy weight. You may be overweight if you're a woman whose waistline is more than 35 inches or a man whose waistline is more than 40 inches.
How to Measure Your Waist
- Stand and wrap a tape measure around your stomach, midway between your hip bones and the bottom of your ribs.
- Keep the tape snug around your waist, without compressing your skin.
- Take the measurement after breathing out normally.
While your BMI and waist circumference can be helpful tools to determine if you may be overweight, only a trained healthcare professional can assess your individual health status and risks. So be sure to ask your doctor what a healthy weight is for you.
Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet
Even small changes to your diet can make a big difference in your heart health. You can start with these simple steps, but be sure to talk to your doctor before making any changes to your diet so you can develop a plan that’s best for you.
- Eat more foods that contain whole grains.
- Add a variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Cut down on sugar and salt (sodium).
- Limit your consumption of high-fat foods, such as red meat, cheese, and baked goods.
- Reduce your consumption of bad fats, which can increase the amount of harmful LDL (bad) cholesterol in your bloodstream and reduce the amount of beneficial HDL cholesterol. Bad fats include saturated and trans fats, and are more likely to be solid at room temperature, such as butter and solid shortening.
- Substitute bad fats for good ones that don’t raise your LDL cholesterol levels and have health benefits when eaten in moderation. Good fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are more likely to be liquid at room temperature, such as sunflower, soybean, corn and olive oils.
Be More Active
Even if you can’t fit in regular workouts, try making activity a part of your daily life. By starting small, you’ll gradually build up your activity level, which may help whittle your waistline and enhance your overall heart health.
Tips for Adding More Activity to Your Day
- Take frequent breaks throughout the day to stretch and walk.
- Do your regular household chores at a brisker pace.
- Park farther away from the door when running errands or get off the bus at an earlier stop to add more steps to your day.
- Take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator.
- Plan more active entertainment. For example, go bowling or bike riding instead of seeing a movie.
- Go for a brisk walk with friends or family after dinner.
Be sure to talk to your doctor before you start or resume any kind of exercise program.
Kick Your Smoking Habit
Experiencing stress from time to time is a normal part of life. However, unmanaged stress can affect your overall health and have a negative impact on your heart by:2
- Increasing your heart rate
- Raising your blood pressure
- Causing irregular heart rhythms
- Raising your cholesterol levels
- Damaging your arteries
- Causing the development and progression of coronary artery disease (atherosclerosis)
- Weakening your immune system
In addition, many people turn to unhealthy habits to cope with stress, such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol and overeating. All of which may put you at higher risk for stroke and heart disease.
Simple Ways to Reduce Stress
- Laugh a Little. Research shows that laughter may help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, increase muscle relaxation and boost the immune system.3 So make it a point to add laughter to your day—whether that means meeting your humorous friend for lunch, watching silly animal videos on the internet or doing anything else that tickles your funny bone.
- Take Time to Relax. From meditation to deep breathing exercises, there are a number of techniques to help relax your mind during times of stress. Find the technique that works best for you and stick with it.
- Keep a Stress Diary. Taking note of the things that cause you stress can help you identify stressors—and find ways to avoid them in the future.
Resources and Support
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- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/effects_cig_smoking/. Accessed October 20, 2016.
- Cleveland Clinic. Stress and Heart Disease. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/heart/prevention/emotional-health/stress-relaxation/stress-management-your-heart. Accessed October 20, 2016.
- Bennett MP, Zeller JM, Rosenberg L, McCann J. The effect of stress of mirthful laughter modifies natural killer cell activity. Altern Ther Health Med. 2003 Mar-Apr;9(2):38-45.