“The difference between those who attempt and those who achieve is heart.”
February is Heart Awareness Month – a time to raise awareness about the nation’s number one killer: cardiovascular disease. Before we dive into our tips for preventing heart disease and maintaining heart health, let’s talk facts. Heart disease, or cardiovascular disease (CVD), is a general name for a wide variety of diseases, disorders and conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels. Some (but not all) types of heart disease include stroke, high blood pressure, and heart valve problems.
Now that we know the what, let’s talk about the why. As the American Heart Association’s slogan so bluntly tells us – life is why. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. More than 800,000 Americans die of heart disease every year – a greater number than the populations of Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont or Wyoming. While that may seem alarming, keep in mind that number continues to rise year after year.
There are many factors beyond our control that can increase our risk for heart disease including age, gender, race, ethnicity, and where we live. However, there are also actions we can each take to prevent the development of heart disease and to maintain our overall health. And while many of these actions might seem like no-brainers, there is still an alarming amount of people unwilling to follow these simple suggestions. Take exercise for example. We’ve heard time and time again the many benefits that regular exercise can contribute to our overall health and well-being. However, a new study from cardiologists at the Cleveland Clinic finds that more than 40% of Americans are still not meeting the minimum recommendations for exercise – 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a day, 5 days a week.
So, before we brush off these suggestions with an “I know, I know,” let’s take a minute to really consider if we are meeting these guidelines. Take these tips to heart – for your heart – and remember that nothing changes if nothing changes. After all, it’s a matter of life or death.
TIPS FOR A HEALTHY HEART
80% of heart disease and stroke can be prevented.
Here’s what you can do to reduce your risk.
- EAT HEALTHY
The food you eat can decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke. Choose food low in saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, fish, nuts, legumes and seeds. Select low-fat dairy products and poultry. Limit sugary beverages and red meat. If you choose to eat red meat, select the leanest cuts available.
- MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT
You body needs fewer calories as you get older. Excess weight causes your heart to work harder and increases the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. Exercising regularly and eating smaller portions of nutrient-rich foods may help you maintain a healthy weight.
- EXERCISE REGULARLY
It is recommended to get at least 30 minutes od moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (e.g., brisk walking) every day. Muscle-strengthening activities are also recommended to ensure all major muscle groups are being worked. And, the more active you are now, the easier it is to stay active in years to come. Children should get at least 60 minutes of activity every day.
- CONTROL YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE
High blood pressure is a major cause of hypertension and stroke in adults. There are many ways that you can lower your blood pressure and keep it under control, including reducing your intake of salt, maintaining diet alteration, and certain medications as prescribed by your doctor.
- DON’T SMOKE
If you picked up smoking as a teen, now is the time to quit. Even exposure to secondhand smoke poses a serious health hazard. Nonsmokers are up to 30% more likely to develop heart disease or lung cancer form secondhand smoke at home or work, according to a U.S. Surgeon General report.
- LIMIT ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. This means an average of one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. (A drink is one 12 oz. beer, 4 oz. of wine, 1.5 oz. of 80-proof spirits or 1 oz. of 100-proof spirits.) Drinking more alcohol increases such dangers as alcoholism, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, breast cancer, suicide and accidents. Consult your physician for more information.
- CONTROL YOUR CHOLESTEROL
High cholesterol is one of the major controllable risk factors of heart disease. If you have other risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, or diabetes, this risk increases even further. The greater the level of each risk, the more that factor affects your overall risk. Your cholesterol level can be affected by your age, gender, family health history, and diet.
- TAKE MEDICATIONS AS PRESCRIBED
Working with your doctor is key. It takes a team to develop and maintain a successful health program. Work with your doctors to determine your risk and the best approach to manage it. While medication may be involved, lifestyle changes are always important in reducing your risk for heart attack and stroke.
While we can’t change our family history or genetics, more than 80 percent of cardiovascular disease can be prevented with simple, daily lifestyle modifications. Following these steps can help lower our risk for heart disease and increase our overall health.
In honor of National Heart Awareness Month, SportProsUSA has teamed up with One Beat CPR & AED – an Exclusive Philips Partner offering Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) and accessories. From now until March 10, we will be giving away a free defibrillator with select purchases.
Click here for more information.
Lastly, for all the women out there – don’t forget that this Friday, February 3 is National Wear Red Day! Designed to help raise awareness about heart disease among women (one in three females in their lifetime will be affected by cardiovascular disease), supporters are encouraged to wear red, use #GoRed across social media profiles, and donate to help raise funds for awareness and research.
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