As Valentine’s Day approaches love is in the air, but is your hearty healthy? While surrounded by red hearts, tiny cupids, and love, remember that February is American Heart Month. Cardiovascular disease, or CVD, is the number one killer in the United States. Cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure, wreaks havoc in the U.S. It is the leading cause of death and disability, and costs the country over $300 billion a year. While it is the number one killer for both men and women, men are two times more likely to die from CVD than women. African Americans are more likely to have high blood pressure and early development of CVD than any other racial or ethnic group. However there is good news, many cases of CVD are preventable! Spread love this month by creating awareness and encouraging heart healthy changes.
The 6 Major Independent Risk-Factors for CVD:
1) Cigarette and Tobacco Smoke
2) High Blood Cholesterol
3) High Blood Pressure
4) Physical Inactivity
To Lower Your Risk:
1) Quit Smoking and Avoid Secondhand Smoke
2) Control your Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
3) Drink Alcohol only in Moderation
4) Watch your Weight
5) Get Active
6) Eat Healthy
Follow these three steps to help lower your risk of CVD:
Smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in this country. Not only does smoking ruin your lungs and the lungs of those around you, but it also affects the other factors of CVD. Smoking decreases your tolerance for physical activity, decreases your good cholesterol (HDL), and increases the likelihood of a blood clot. The good news is that it is never too late to quit. As soon as you quit smoking your lungs can start to heal themselves!
Getting active is one of the easiest ways to improve your heart health. The American Heart Association suggests 150 minutes of moderate exercise (30 minutes a day for five days a week) or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. If your specific goal is to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol, two of the major risk-factors for CVD, they recommend 40 minutes of moderate or vigorous aerobic exercise a week. Aerobic exercise is any sustained exercise (ex: jogging, swimming, biking) that stimulates and strengthens the lungs and heart to improve oxygen use in the body. This may be an overwhelming way to start, but do not be discouraged because something is ALWAYS better than nothing!
There is so much information out there about different fad diets, contradicting studies and recommendations. But here is a simple tip, including more fruits and vegetables in your diet can help with weight control and lowering blood cholesterol and blood pressure- three major risk-factors for CVD. Focus your meals around fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, and nuts while limiting red meat, deep-fried and processed foods, sugary foods and beverages.
Cardiovascular disease is a major threat to this country. These three steps will help lower your risk of CVD and hopefully of those around you. Use February as the start for a heart healthy year. Remember, many cases of Cardiovascular Disease are preventable!