Healthy Heart, Healthy You!

February is National Heart Month and so I decided to write some facts that all of you should find helpful.

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), in 2008 heart disease caused almost 25% of deaths…that is one in every four people in the United States.  It is the leading cause for both men and women and about 785,000 Americans have their first heart attack every year.  47% of sudden cardiac deaths occur outside a hospital which suggests that many people with heart disease ignore early warning signs and therefore don’t take care of an early symptom.

Some of the risk factors of heart disease are detailed in the table below.

Risk Factor

%
Inactivity

53

Obesity

34

High Blood Pressure

32

Cigarette Smoking

21

High Cholesterol

15

Diabetes

11

Now that you know the risk factors, here are five things you can do outside of medication to keep a healthy heart.  Although we all lack the power to change some risk factors like family history or age, there are still some measures you can take to lower your risk and that is by adopting a healthier lifestyle.

1.    Don’t smoke or use tobacco. No amount of smoking is safe. Low tar and low nicotine as well as secondhand smoke are risky.  The nicotine in cigarette smoke makes your heart work harder by narrowing your blood vessels and increasing your heart rate and blood pressure.

The good news, though, is that when you quit smoking, your risk of heart disease drops dramatically within just one year. And no matter how long or how much you smoked, you’ll start reaping rewards as soon as you quit.

2. Exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week. Getting some regular, daily exercise can reduce your risk of fatal heart disease. And when you combine physical activity with other lifestyle measures, such as maintaining a healthy weight, the payoff is even better.

Physical activity helps you control your weight and can reduce your chances of developing other conditions that may put a strain on your heart.  You don’t have to exercise like crazy to achieve benefits, but you can see bigger benefits by increasing the intensity, duration and frequency of your workouts.

3. Eat a heart-healthy diet. Following a diet that is low in fat, cholesterol and salt. Your diet should be rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, which can help protect your heart. Beans, other low-fat sources of protein and certain types of fish also can reduce your risk of heart disease.

4. Maintain a healthy weight. As you put on weight in adulthood, your weight gain is mostly fat rather than muscle. This excess weight can lead to conditions that increase your chances of heart disease — high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

5. Get regular health screenings. High blood pressure and high cholesterol can damage your heart and blood vessels.  Regular check ups can tell you what your numbers are and whether you need to take action.

I know it’s difficult to maintain a rigid lifestyle continuously.  My philosophy is to maintain a healthy lifestyle but give yourself permission to cheat every once in a while.  We all need to skip a workout or eat a greasy burger every once in a while.  We just can’t cheat all the time.  Just my personal opinion.

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