Have You Ever Wondered About your Heart Health?
Are you doing everything you can to keep your heart healthy? Or maybe you might ask yourself, “What should I be doing to keep my heart healthy?” These are very good questions that are very important to get answered.
So why should you be concerned about your heart health? Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans. One out of three Americans will die of heart disease, which is a combination of both heart attacks and strokes. Unbelievably, 60% of Americans will suffer from a major heart or stroke-related event in their lifetime. These statistics are cause for great concern. But the good news is that everyone has the power to change their own odds! You can do this by knowing some very important numbers and making a few changes in lifestyle.
The American Heart Association (www.heart.org) has broken the most important changes down into seven steps, which they call “The Simple 7.”
Step 1: Manage your Blood Pressure.
Know what your blood pressure is and if it is elevated (normal is <120/70) then work towards reducing it through healthy diet, exercise, stress reduction, smoking cessation and medication if necessary. Having a healthy blood pressure is important because when it is elevated there is stress on the blood vessels that over time can lead to overstretching and damage. Damaged blood vessels are prone to clot formation which can lead to blockages causing heart attacks or strokes.
Step 2: Control Cholesterol.
Most people have heard about total cholesterol, but this is actually made up of a few different components. LDL cholesterol is the primary trouble maker in the cholesterol family. If you have too high of levels of LDL in the blood it can find damaged places in the blood vessel surface and start to build a lesion that leads to a blockage. Make sure you are getting your cholesterol checked regularly. By maintaining a healthy weight and being active you can help improve your cholesterol profile. There are also medications that can help!
Step 3: Eat Better.
We’ve all heard this one before, but what does it really mean? For starters you should eat more fruits and vegetables. They are low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Eat whole-grain foods. This provides you with more fiber which fills you up with less calories, and the fiber can help lower cholesterol. Eat fish at least twice a week, and lean meats and skinless poultry can make up the rest of your protein needs. Why fish? It contains Omega-3 fatty acids, which may lower your risk of death from heart disease! Cut back on saturated and trans fats. Saturated fats are any fat that comes from an animal. Think butter, fat in milk, the marbling in a nice steak. Trans fats are “man-made.” Vegetable shortening is a great example. You should strive to eliminate these fats.
Step 4: Get Active.
This is so important for weight management, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose control as well as stress reduction. It is recommended that you move at least 150 minutes per week. If you break that down it is 30 minutes five days a week. Activity doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon. Start with a brisk walk through your neighborhood, or run around the backyard playing soccer with your kids. Make activity fun so the whole family participates!
Step 5: Lose Weight.
If you carry a little extra “fluff,” you are not alone. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. But extra fat tissue is very bad for the heart, especially if it is located around your mid-section. You can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease by losing weight and keeping it off, but even 5-10 pounds can make a difference by lowering blood pressure and blood glucose levels.
Step 6: Reduce Blood Sugar.
Elevated blood sugar can complicate and worsen heart disease. Healthy blood glucose levels are between 70-130mg/dL fasting.
Step 7: Stop Smoking.
If you smoke you significantly increase your risk of heart disease. Smoking is also one of the top reasons for early death. Smoking damages your entire circulatory system, heart and lungs.
If you are interested in more information about “The Simple 7” go to the American Heart Association website, www.heart.org. You can even take a short health assessment to help get you started. The key to a healthy heart is in your reach!