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7 Heart Health Resolutions

As mentioned on Friday’s post, the American Heart Association has designated the month of February as American Heart Month.

Cardiovascular disease, such as heart attack and stroke, is the nation’s #1 killer.  A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons to prevent becoming part of that number.

A new checklist developed by the American Heart Association, My Life Check Simple 7, gives you seven different points to follow with the goal of improved health through these lifestyle changes.  According to the AHA, these seven points have something unique in common – anyone can do it!  And by making these small changes you will see a BIG difference in your overall health.

If you have ever been to H3 – these might sound a bit familiar!

Here are their Simple Seven Heart Health Tips:

1. Get ActiveBy exercising for as little as 30 minutes each day you can reduce your risk of heart disease.  Without regular physical activity, your body slowly loses its strength plus the ability to function well.  Physical activity equals living a longer, healthier life.

Regular Physical Activity Helps: Lower blood pressure, increase HDL “good” cholesterol in your blood, control blood sugar by improving how your body uses insulin, reduce feelings of stress, control body weight and make you feel good about yourself.

Aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week.

2. Control Cholesterol.  Cholesterol is important for your body because it’s used to produce cell membranes, as well as serve other necessary bodily functions.  However, too much cholesterol in the blood is a major risk for coronary heart disease (which leads to a heart attack) and stroke.

To keep your cholesterol under control: schedule a screening, eat foods low in cholesterol and saturated fat and free of trans fat, maintain a healthy weight, and stay physically active.

A cholesterol level of 200 mg/dL or higher puts you in a high-risk category and is cause to take action.

3. Eat Better. To make sure that your body is getting the nutrients it needs, choose foods like vegetables, fruits, whole-grain products and fat-free or low-fat dairy products most often.  These foods are higher in nutrients, minerals, and fiber and are lower in calories.

The main goal for your overall diet is to make it a long-term effort.  Simply put, it’s the overall pattern of your choices that counts most.  Make your daily choices include a wide variety from each of the basic food groups.

4. Manage your Blood Pressure.  Hypertension (high blood pressure) is the number one risk factor for heart disease.  One in three adults has high blood pressure, yet, about 21% don’t even know they have it. Of those with high blood pressure, 69% are receiving treatment, yet, only 45% have their blood pressure controlled.

By keeping your blood pressure in the healthy range, you are: Reducing your risk of your vascular walls becoming overstretched and injured, reducing your risk of your heart having to pump harder to compensate for blockages, protecting your entire body so that your tissue receives regular supplies of blood that is rich in the oxygen it needs.

5. Lose Weight.  Among Americans age 20 and older, 145 million are overweight or obese (BMI of 25.0 kg/m2 and higher).  This is of great concern especially since obesity is now recognized as a major, independent risk factor for heart disease. If you have too much fat — especially if a lot of it is at your waist — you’re at higher risk for such health problems as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes.

If you’re overweight or obese, you can reduce your risk for heart disease by successfully losing weight and keeping it off.

6. Reduce Blood Sugar.  Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke than adults without diabetes.

Diabetes is treatable, but even when glucose levels are under control it greatly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. In fact, most people with diabetes die of some form of heart or blood vessel disease.

If you are diagnosed with diabetes, your doctor may prescribe changes in eating habits, weight control, exercise programs and medication to keep it in check. It’s critical for people with diabetes to have regular check-ups.

7. Stop Smoking.  Smoking by itself increases the risk of coronary heart disease. When it acts with the other factors, it greatly increases your risk from those factors, too.

Smoking decreases your tolerance for physical activity and increases the tendency for blood to clot. It decreases HDL (good) cholesterol. Your risks increase greatly if you smoke and have a family history of heart disease. Smoking also creates a higher risk for peripheral artery disease and aortic aneurysm. It increases the risk of recurrent coronary heart disease after bypass surgery, too.

Source:  American Heart Association.  For more information regarding the above guidelines, visit www.americanheart.org.

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