Heart disease is still the #1 cause of death for men and women in our country, taking 610,000 lives or 1 out of 4 lives, each year.

Regular physical activity is essential for good heart health, including blood pressure and blood lipids.  The American Heart Association recommends aiming for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week with not more than 2 days between exercise (ex: 30 minutes./day for at least 5 days/week.). Check with your physician if you have any questions or have not exercised regularly for some time.  At least twice a week, strength training is recommended to work all major muscle groups.

Though not an exercise for cardiovascular fitness, the American Diabetes Association also recommends flexibility and balance exercise, as well as strength training, at least a few times per week.  All forms of exercise can result in improved blood sugar or glucose levels, which, in itself, can reduce risk for heart disease. When your blood sugar is high, your cholesterol levels increase.

The American Diabetes Association website, www.diabetes.org has written descriptions of recommended exercise for strength, flexibility, balance, and aerobic exercise.  Look under “Food and Fitness” for practical ways to stay active without undertaking a formal exercise program.

WHAT IS HEART-HEALTHY EATING?

 

Here are the heart-healthy diet recommendations not only from the American Heart Association but also from the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for prevention of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

  • Consume a wealth of fruits and vegetables (5 or more servings a day) and whole grains in place of at least half of the refined (white flour, white rice) grains.
  • Limit processed foods which tend to be high in sodium or salt (snack foods, soups, frozen dinners, sauces)
  • Avoid trans fats, also known as hydrogenated fats (check margarine, cookie and cracker labels)and limit animal fats (butter, creams, fatty meats, etc.) while favoring plant-based fats such as olive and other vegetable oils ( canola oil is the lowest in saturated fats) and nuts,

avocados, in moderation

  • Consume fish at least twice a week and consider some meatless meals, substituting legumes (lentils, beans, split peas), seeds, or nuts.
  • Choose lowfat dairy products
  • Limit sugar-sweetened beverages and desserts

 

Making one change and building on it may maintain or improve heart health.  This may result in improved weight, and reduced risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer, as well.

 

KEEPING OUR HEARTS HEALTHY

 

February is “Heart Month” so reviewing tips on keeping heart-healthy may prevent or minimize damage from heart attacks (the biggest cause of death in our country) and strokes.

  1. Know the symptoms of heart attacks (nausea, pain or discomfort in chest and arm) and strokes (leg or arm numbness or weakness, slurred speech, dizziness, fatigue) can be a start.   Taking action quickly if these suspicious symptoms occur by calling your doctor or going to Urgent Care within 24 hours, can be the difference between life and death or disability.
  2. Know your levels of blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and weight and how they trend from year to year to allow you to see if your risk for vessel disease is increasing, staying the same, or decreasing.  Check with your healthcare provider for your recommended levels, as this can vary

based on other risk factors.

  1. Eat a heart-healthy diet and stay physically active, checking with your doctor for recommended level of physical activity.

Future blogs will be devoted to the dietary habits and exercise recommendations that can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.