February is American Heart Month

Amy Williams, MS, RD, LD

Heart disease is considered to be a group of diseases and conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels.  Examples of how heart disease can affect the human body include heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke. Therefore, it is important for us to be educated and aware of what we can do to prevent, delay, or lessen symptoms and risk factors of heart disease.

The American Heart Association (AHA) includes the following as risk factors for heart disease.

v Age

v Being male

v Heredity

v Smoking

v Lack of physical activity

v High cholesterol

v High blood pressure

v Diabetes

v Obesity and overweight

v Stress

Of course the more risk factors you have, the greater your risk of heart disease. Take note, many of the above risk factors can be controlled, while obviously others cannot be controlled. What could you work on in trying to control or alleviate heart disease?

Physical Activity-It is recommended that we get 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity, five times per week, to equal 150 minutes per week. A nice brisk walk is sufficient.

Cholesterol-is defined as a soft waxy substance, similar to fat on cuts of meats. Cholesterol is not only made by the liver, which is adequate of what a person needs each day, but cholesterol also comes from many animal products we could may eat every day such as, eggs, milk, red meats, cheese, fish, and chicken.

High Blood Pressure-is a force of blood moving through the walls of blood vessels.

v Imagine putting your thumb over a garden hose to create more water pressure. Pressure increases, creating a bigger force.

v Now imagine the damage high blood pressure could cause to your blood vessels, if cholesterol is narrowing your blood vessels.

Preventing or Managing Heart Disease

The American Heart Association states there are many things you can do to prevent or manage heart disease.  This is often referred to as the "Simple 7”.

1.     Get active: Just 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, five days each week is beneficial.

2.     Control cholesterol: Keep it simple, stay away from animal products, trans fats, saturated fat, and high cholesterol foods. Eat less than 300 mg of cholesterol per day.

3.     Eat a healthy diet: Increase fruits and vegetables, fish (oily fish), whole grains, and decease sodium to less than 1500 mg each day.

4.     Quit smoking

5.     Maintain a healthy body weight

6.     Get help from your health care provider to manage blood pressure.

7.     Get help from your health care provider to keep blood sugar at healthy levels.

A heart healthy lifestyle is your best defense in defeating heart disease. Again, it is important to realize that a lot of the above risk factors can be controlled by you. Take charge of your own health!

Information derived from the Centers for Disease Control Diabetes Prevention Program.