February is American Heart Month and did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men in the US each year? Nearly half of all Americans have at least 1 of 3 key risk factors for heart disease; high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and smoking. Also know that the risk can often be prevented if we are proactive by making healthy choices and by managing our medical conditions. Sometimes even the smallest changes can aid in the prevention that we can follow up on and incorporate into our daily lives.
Statistics from the AHA (American Heart Association), ASA (American Stroke Association, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and the Heart Foundation provides scary facts that we should really be aware of:
- Every 25 seconds an American will have a coronary event
- Every 33 seconds someone in the U.S. dies from heart disease
- Every 34 seconds someone has a heart attack
Here are some simple things that we can do to combat this deadly disease:
1) Monitor your blood pressure regularly (I purchased an inexpensive electronic cuff for less than $40), ideally you would like to maintain 120/80 and below, as this would categorize you as having normal blood pressure.
2) Read the labels on food cans & packages for high sodium content (if you 50 or older the Mayo clinic recommends a daily intake of 1,500 mg), many processed foods and fast foods contain very high levels of sodium that exceed the recommended daily number.
3) Stop smoking if you still do; if it’s difficult, ask your doctor for advice or seek an over the counter solution like a nicotine patch or gum.
4) Do some sort of physical exercise for at least 30 minutes per day, even a brisk walk will be very beneficial, just as long as you are not sitting down all day and being inactive, and yes even house cleaning would be categorized as an activity.
5) If you drink alcohol, do it in moderation, as too much alcohol will raise your blood pressure (the Mayo Clinic states that moderate drinking would be 2 drinks a day for men younger than 65, 1 drink a day for men over 65 and 1 for women at any age). One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.
6) Watch your weight and have your cholesterol checked, be aware of your numbers and ask your doctor about basic dietary do’s and don’ts.
7) Try to manage stress if you can with deep breathing exercises, signing up for a yoga class or even meditation. As always, talk with your doctor who may prescribe some lifesaving medication for you.
8) Eat healthy add more fruits, vegetables, grains, lean meats, nuts and fish to your daily diet as these items will lend assistance to garnering a smaller waistline.
I can remember many years ago having a fearless mentality and not being concerned about any old people’s disease because it never occurred to me that I would be reaching the age of retirement and Medicare someday, and that day is now. Although I don’t suffer from any heart ailments at the moment, the best approach is to be aware of all the risks and to live a healthy lifestyle. Confucius once said “Wherever you go, go with all your heart” and I would add just make it a healthy one!