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I’ve been seeing hearts for Valentine’s Day, and February is also American Heart Month. The hearts have remind me to care for my heart. Currently heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women alike, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The most common type: coronary heart disease, killed about 366,000 people in 2015, according to the CDC. Heart disease death rates have increased among adults ages 34-64 in many US cities, according to millionhearts.hhs.gov, and in the US, someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors, says the CDC. About 49% of Americans have at least one of these risk factors. Other risk factors for heart disease include things like physical inactivity, poor diet, excessive alcohol use, and being overweight.
If you are at risk, Heart.org offers a few simple suggestions that may protect against heart disease:
- Choose a healthy eating plan:The American Heart Association suggests a diet full of fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, nuts, legumes and seeds. Limit saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium. If you eat meat include oily fish at least twice per week and skinless poultry, limit red-meat intake, and choose the leanest cuts available.
- Cut back on sodas and sugary beverages:This can help lower blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, says Web MD. I impulsively gave up caffeinated beverages 10 years ago and started drinking more water. I also started carrying a water bottle with me throughout the day. Staying hydrated means I don’t have the urge to reach for a sugary drink.The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, & Medicine recommends drinking 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluid for men and 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluid for women, daily. That includes water and other drinks or food. But be aware that “other drinks and food” only make up about 20% of the daily total, so the main source of fluid should be water.
- Be physically active:In general, we should do moderate exercise, like brisk walking, for 30 minutes a day on most days of the week, says the Mayo Clinic, and a combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity is even more effective. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate activity, 75 minutes of vigorous activity, or a mixture of both, and focus on strength training 2 times per week. Vigorous aerobic activity include exercises that get your heart beating faster, like power walking, jogging, running, jump roping, aerobic dancing, bicycling, etc.
Start with little changes. Even short amounts of exercise can offer heart benefits, say the Mayo Clinic. Standing instead of sitting, taking the stairs, and walking the dog all count toward weekly exercise totals. Try meatless Monday, and snack on an apple instead of a cookie. As always, a healthy lifestyle may vary from person to person. The commonality is a daily habit of healthy choices.
DISCLAIMER: This article contains information that is intended to help the readers be better informed regarding exercise and health care. It is presented as general advice on health care. Always consult your doctor for your individual needs. Before beginning any new exercise program it is recommended that you seek medical advice from your personal physician. This article is not intended to be a substitute for the medical advice of a licensed physician. The reader should consult with their doctor in any matters relating to his/her health.