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Valentine’s Day and Your Heart: A Focus on Heart Health
About every 25 seconds, an American will have a coronary event. No matter where you are in life, it’s never too late to make better health choices. All you need is a goal, a plan and a desire to live better.
Community Health Charities want you to know that you can achieve excellent cardiovascular health by keeping seven factors, known as Life’s Simple 7 in check:
1. Don’t smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products.
2. Keep a healthy body weight.
3. Get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity) each week.
4. Eat a healthy diet consistent with current recommendations from the American Heart Association.
5. Keep total cholesterol less than 200 mg/dL.
6. Keep blood pressure below 120/80 mm Hg.
7. Keep fasting blood glucose less than 100 mg/dL.
Why Stop Smoking?
Cigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health. Smoking is one of our nation’s top causes of early death, but your lungs can begin to heal as soon as you quit. So, if you find yourself reaching for a cigarette when you’re stressed or anxious, it’s urgent that you realize the cost: over your lifetime, smoking will only add to your stress by taking away your good health. Whatever satisfaction you get from smoking is going to be somewhat short-lived – cigarettes will shorten your life.
The Impact of Smoking on Health
If you want to live a long and healthy life, breaking the nicotine addiction will be very important. Smoking damages your entire circulatory system, and increases your risk for coronary heart disease, hardened arteries, aneurysm and blood clots. Like a line of tumbling dominoes, one risk creates another. Blood clots and hardened arteries increase your risks for heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease. Smoking can also reduce your good cholesterol (HDL) and your lung capacity, making it harder to get the physical activity you need for better health.
What Can I Do to Stop Smoking?
You can do whatever it takes to quit! One day at a time, one hour at a time, you can learn to replace the craving for cigarettes with healthier options. If you slip and have a smoke, you haven’t “failed.” Instead, you have an opportunity to realize why you did it, and make different choices next time.
For more support, visit our Quit Smoking website. Talk with your healthcare provider or look for a quit-smoking program. Many hospitals and public health departments offer hotlines and group support with trained staff to help you make new habits for a smoke-free life.
Parents, talk with your kids about cigarette smoking. Many people begin their addiction during adolescence and spend years wishing they had never started. Learning to say ‘no’ to cigarettes is learning to say ‘yes’ to your good health.
Why Eat Better?
A healthy diet is one of your best weapons for fighting cardiovascular disease. When you eat a heart-healthy diet (foods low in saturated and trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars, and foods high in whole grain fiber, lean protein, and a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables) you improve your chances for feeling good and staying healthy – for life! However, an alarmingly high number of us are not making healthy food choices. Recent studies show that more than 90% of us fail to consistently eat a heart-healthy diet. Our poor eating habits mean more of us have risk factors for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity.
How Does Better Eating Affect My Health?
You can’t build a healthy body on a diet of hamburgers and french fries. If you are frequently skipping out on veggies, fruit, low-fat dairy, fiber-rich whole grains and lean meats (including fish), your body is missing the basic building blocks for a healthy life. Healthy foods are the fuel our bodies use to make new cells and create the energy we need to thrive and fight diseases.
What Can I Do to Eat Better?
Stock your kitchen with healthy
Track what you eat!
Eat vegetables and fruits. They are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber — and they’re low in calories. Eating a variety of deeply-colored fruits and vegetables may help you control your weight and your blood pressure.
Eat unrefined fiber-rich, whole-grain foods. A diet rich in fiber can help promote weight loss because fiber keeps you feeling fuller longer, so you eat less. It can also help lower your blood cholesterol.
Eat fish at least twice a week. Recent research shows that eating two 3.5 oz servings of oily fish per week containing omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon, trout and herring) may help lower your risk of death from coronary artery disease. For additional protein, choose skinless lean meats and poultry and prepare them without adding saturated and trans fat. Select fat-free, 1 percent fat and lowfat dairy products.
Cut back on saturated and trans fats, cholesterol and added sugars. Cut down on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet. Aim to eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol each day. Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt. Aim to eat less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. Limiting sugary drinks to no more than 36 oz per week is a great way to reduce added sugars in your diet.
Savor new flavors!
Why Get Active?
We all know that exercise is good for us, but nearly 70% of Americans do not get the physical activity they need. Living an active life is one of the most rewarding gifts you can give yourself and those you love. Simply put, daily physical activity increases your length and quality of life. If you get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day (like brisk walking), five times per week, you can almost guarantee yourself a healthier and more satisfying life while lowering your risks for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Parents, your children need 60 minutes a day – every day – so when you get active, you’re also modeling healthy living for the next generation.
The Price of Inactivity
If you exercise less than 150 minutes per week, you need to increase your activity level. Regular moderate physical activity helps keep your heart in good condition. When you are inactive, you burn fewer calories, you are at higher risk for cholesterol problems, blood sugar and blood pressure problems, and your weight is often harder to manage. If that’s not enough, physically active people nearly always report better moods, less stress, more energy and a better outlook on life.
What Can I Do To Get Active?
To increase physical activity in your lifestyle, you can also try:
1. Parking farther away from your destination.
Why Control Cholesterol?
When you control your cholesterol, you are giving your arteries their best chance to remain clear of blockages. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that our bodies use to make cell membranes and some hormones, but when you have too much bad cholesterol (LDL), it combines with white blood cells and forms plaque in your veins and arteries. These blockages can ultimately lead to heart disease and stroke.
The Cost of High Cholesterol
If your cholesterol is 200 mg/dL or higher, you need to take action. High cholesterol can cause blocked arteries and like a multi-car pile-up, one problem often creates another. Plaque-lined arteries and veins become less flexible and do not deliver as much blood to your body. Blocked arteries can cause heart attacks and may raise blood pressure, which can eventually lead to heart damage or failure. Cholesterol and plaque can become lodged in your kidney’s filters and cause problems regulating your fluids and hormones. Lowering your cholesterol helps your whole body get adequate blood supply and keeps your circulatory organs functioning well.
What Can I Do to Control Cholesterol?
Your liver and your body’s cells make about 75% of the cholesterol in your blood. The other 25% comes from your food. The American Heart Association recommends the following:
Finally, some people inherit a gene that causes them to make too much LDL. If your doctor prescribes cholesterol medication for you, it is important that you take it and follow other healthy lifestyle recommendations as well.
Manage Blood Pressure
Why Manage Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure is the single most significant risk factor for heart disease. When your blood pressure stays within healthy ranges, you reduce the strain on your heart, arteries and kidneys, which keeps you healthier longer.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension,
means the blood running through your arteries flows with too much force and
puts pressure on your arteries, stretching them past their healthy limit and
causing microscopic tears. Our body then kicks into injury-healing mode to
repair these tears with scar tissue. But unfortunately, the scar tissue traps
plaque and white blood cells which can form into blockages, blood clots and
hardened, weakened arteries.
1. Reducing your risk of overstretched or injured
blood vessel walls.
What is the Cost of High Blood Pressure?
Uncontrolled high blood pressure can injure or kill you. It's sometimes called "the silent killer" because it has no symptoms. Approximately 90% of all Americans will develop hypertension over their lifetime and one in three adults has high blood pressure – yet many people don’t even know they have it. Uncontrolled high blood pressure kills people and wreaks havoc on many lives by causing heart disease and stroke.
Blockages and blood clots mean less blood can get to our vital organs and without blood, the tissue dies. That’s why high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and even heart failure.
What Can I Do to Reduce My Blood Pressure?
Good news! High blood pressure is manageable.
Whether your blood pressure is high or normal (normal is less than 120 mm Hg
systolic AND less than 80 mm Hg diastolic or <120/80), the lifestyle
modifications listed here provide a great heart-healthy living plan for all of
Why Lose Weight?
If you have too much fat — especially if a lot of it is at your waist — you're at higher risk for such health problems as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes.