February is American Heart Month
Now that Valentine's Day has come and gone and we've spent some time with the emotional side of our heart, it's time to take some time and give our physical heart some attention. If you didn't take time to contact loved ones on Valentine's Day, do it today! It's never too late. It's also not too late for your heart's health, no matter what condition it is in. A combination of exercise, nutrition, and relaxation can keep your heart strong and your blood pressure at a healthy level.
Heart disease is the number 1 killer of women. Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the US. The American Heart Association suggests knowing your cholesterol and triglyceride numbers in addition to your blood pressure and your waist size so that you can take charge of your health and lower your risk factors for heart disease. High cholesterol often has no symptoms, so learn what your numbers are now (age 20 and above) and get re-tested every 5 years, as the AHA suggests. A high triglyceride level and high LDL cholesterol speeds up atherosclerosis (the buildup of fatty deposits in artery walls). Atherosclerosis increases the risk for heart attack and stroke (remember: a heart attack occurs when fatty deposits clog an artery that feeds the heart and prevent blood from reaching the heart, and a stroke occurs by a clot obstructing blood flow to the brain or by a blood vessel rupturing and preventing blood flow to the brain). So what can you do? The AHA makes it easy to remember the four key things you can do to take care of yourself:
Heart disease is the number 1 killer of women.
Make a Choice for a Healthy Heart:
1. Choose to not smoke.
2. Choose to eat baked, not fried, foods.
3. Choose to move, not sit.
4. Choose to get a check-up from your doctor.
Choose to not smoke:
Decide that you want a healthier future more than you want to smoke. For help in quitting smoking, create a network of support around you to give you strength when you feel like falling back on the old, bad habit of pumping smoke into your body. Visit www.smokefree.gov
for support, tips, and professional contacts.
Choose to eat baked, not fried, foods:
Sure, fried foods taste good while they are in your mouth, but they do nothing but bad things once they reach your stomach and get sent off to the bloodstream. Fatty deposits on your arterial walls can eventually lead to a hart attack, and excessive fatty deposits in your fat cells lead to an unhealthy waist circumference and can contribute to diabetes which has a long list of health complications of its own. Choose baked foods or broiled foods instead of fried foods, and enjoy a flavorful bite by adding spices to it instead of fat.
Choose to move, not sit:
We are awake 16-18 hours every day. At least 30 minutes of that should be spent with your heart rate elevated and your sweat dripping. Even an intense 30 minute workout might only burn 250 calories-one large coke has more than that, so if that's all you do to burn energy, you'll already be storing extra calories if you consume more than you burned off that day. So, add movement each hour of the day: walk up the escalator instead of standing still, park at the far end of the parking lot, or get out of your chair at work to fill up your water bottle or hand-deliver something instead of waiting to drop it off at 5 pm on your way out the door. If you aren't physically active, get a check-up from your doctor, then start with some easy walking each day, gradually adding a few minutes until you've worked your way up to 30 minutes without stopping.
Choose to get a check-up from your doctor:
Your doctor knows that the key to taking care of your health is to know the numbers: blood cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and waist circumference. You will be able to track your numbers and see if a healthy diet and exercise do enough to help them maintain a healthy level. If not, your doctor may prescribe medication for you to keep them at a manageable level.