The month of February is synonymous for the heart driven holiday of love, this month is also American Heart month. In honor of this observance, it’s important to find out if you and your family members are at risk for this preventable disease.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD)—including heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure—is the number 1 killer of women and men in the United States. It is a leading cause of disability, preventing Americans from working and enjoying family activities. Although health disparities based on geography, race, ethnicity, gender, age, or genetics cannot be altered, lifestyle changes are the easiest way to gain control of your health and avoid potential risk factors.
You have heard it many times, eat your veggies and exercise to keep your heart strong and happy, diet is a big player in Cardio vascular disease prevention. A balanced diet of nutrient rich foods can have the biggest impact on your heart. Adults should have at least 5 servings a day of fruits and veggies, eat foods low in trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and increase high fiber foods. Physical activity can help maintain a healthy weight and control blood pressure. Be sure to include varied physical activity such as cardio, strength training, and flexibility modalities at minimum 150 minutes a week into your lifestyle.
Smoking and/or alcohol consumption combined can lead to higher chances; moderation or cessation is key. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes harm the heart and blood vessels, increasing your risk of atherosclerosis (artery narrowing)—even if you smoke only once in a while. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which can increase your blood pressure. Men should stick to no more than two drinks per day, and women to no more than one.
Diabetes has recently been added to the list of factors according to the National Diabetes Clearing House, “If you have diabetes you are twice as likely as someone who doesn’t for the disease.” Over time, high blood glucose levels (blood sugar) can increase the deposits of fatty materials in artery and blood vessel walls, increasing the chances for artery narrowing and hardening (atherosclerosis). Scientists have discovered that all cholesterol is not the same, aim to get your cholesterol levels checked at least once every 5 hrs. The so called “good” cholesterol –HDL- is actually protective against heart disease, it can help reduce inflammation, which contributes to heart health. HDL lower than 40 mg/dl increases your risk of heart disease, while HDL above 60 mg/dl may offer protection against heart disease.
As you begin your journey keep a few things in mind to keep you on track; Partner up, the journey is more fun. Don’t get discouraged, you will create unnecessary stress on your heart, and try not to get overwhelmed with vast information, the smallest steps are the most important.