February is American Heart Month and tomorrow, February 3, is National Wear Red Day. National Wear Red Day is in support of the Go Red for Women campaign, which is an American Heart Association cause to bring awareness to women’s cardiovascular disease.

The human cardiovascular or circulatory system consists of the heart, blood vessels (veins, arteries, capillaries), and blood. Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of both women and men – one in every four deaths. About 80% of cardiac events can be prevented through education and lifestyle changes. Medical conditions and lifestyle choices that put people at a high risk of cardiovascular disease include: high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, overweight or obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol use.

The Audiologists at Mile High Hearing advocate for good cardiovascular health because research has shown a significant link between cardiovascular health and hearing health.  A healthy cardiovascular system has a positive effect on hearing and an unhealthy cardiovascular system has a negative effect on hearing.

David R. Friedland, MD, PhD is a Professor and Vice-Chair of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences at the Medical College of Wisconsin and has studied the relationship between cardiovascular and hearing health for many years. He states, “The inner ear is so sensitive to blood flow that it is possible that abnormalities in the cardiovascular system could be noted here earlier than in other less sensitive parts of the body.” The complexity and small size of the hearing system leaves it vulnerable to changes in blood flow. Permanent damage can occur to the hearing system when there is reduced blood flow.

So what can you do to keep your heart and hearing healthy? Here are some tips to get you started. It is also a good idea to consult with your primary care physician about heart health and your Audiologist about hearing health.

1. Annual Physicals – Seeing your primary care physician annually allows for a regular opportunity to assess your current health and address any concerns you may have. Your physician will monitor your blood pressure, blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and heart rate. You can also discuss your diet and lifestyle with your physician.

2. Do Not Smoke – People who smoke are almost twice as likely to have hearing loss compared to those who do not smoke. Also, people who do not smoke but live with someone who does are more likely to develop hearing loss. Second-hand smoke makes people 30% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease too. Blood flood is restricted by the nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarettes, which prevents oxygen from effectively circulating. Poor blood flow can permanently damage the sensory cells in the hearing organ and cause hearing loss.

3. Maintain a Healthy Weight – Being overweight makes it more difficult for the heart to circulate blood throughout the body, including the inner ear. People who are overweight are more likely to develop Type II Diabetes. People who have diabetes are more likely to have cardiovascular disease and are twice as likely to have hearing loss.

a. Exercise – Physical activity is a great way to help decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease and hearing loss. For adults, the American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise. Heart healthy aerobic exercise includes: playing sports, walking, jogging, swimming, biking, and even climbing stairs.

b. Eat Healthy – The food you eat can decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses. Foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat and sodium are heart healthy. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, and fish. Limit sugary drinks and red meat. 

4. Hearing Evaluation – A comprehensive hearing evaluation performed by an Audiologist is the first step in identifying hearing loss and should be a part of routine healthcare. Identifying hearing loss early and beginning rehabilitation like hearing aid use can decrease your risk of dementia, depression, anxiety, falls, and hospitalization. The Audiologists at Mile High Hearing believe in collaborative healthcare so they will communicate with your primary care physician regarding the results of your hearing evaluation and will refer you to other specialists if indicated.

Mile High Hearing will be participating in National Wear Red Day, make sure you do too! Keep your heart healthy and keep your hearing healthy!