February is heart health month and why not. After all, February contains Valentine’s Day. In reality though, every month should be heart health month. Your heart is the most important muscle you have. Forget about the pecs and biceps. Without the heart working properly, you’re not doing anything. Heart disease doesn’t happen just to older adults either. It is happening to younger adults more and more often. This is partly because the conditions that lead to heart disease are happening at younger ages. High rates of obesity and high blood pressure among younger people (ages 35-64) are putting them at risk for heart disease earlier in life. Half of all Americans have at least one of the top three risk factors for heart disease (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking).
You Could Be at Risk
High Blood Pressure. Millions of Americans of all ages have high blood pressure, including millions of people in their 40s and 50s. About half of people with high blood pressure don’t have it under control. Having uncontrolled high blood pressure is one of the biggest risks for heart disease and other harmful conditions, such as stroke.
High Blood Cholesterol. High cholesterol can increase the risk for heart disease. Having diabetes and obesity, smoking, eating unhealthy foods, and not getting enough physical activity can all contribute to unhealthy cholesterol levels. While there’s some serious debate on this particular subject, it is still listed as one of the top precursors to heart disease.
Smoking. More than 37 million U.S. adults are current smokers, and thousands of young people start smoking each day. Smoking damages the blood vessels and can cause heart disease.
Other conditions and behaviors that affect your risk for heart disease include:
Obesity. Carrying extra weight puts stress on the heart. More than 1 in 3 Americans—and nearly 1 in 6 children ages 2 to 19—has obesity.
Diabetes. Diabetes causes sugar to build up in the blood. This can damage blood vessels and nerves that help control the heart muscle. Nearly 1 in 10 people in the United States has diabetes.
Physical Inactivity. Staying physically active helps keep the heart and blood vessels healthy. Only 1 in 5 adults meets the physical activity guidelines of getting 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity.
Unhealthy Eating Patterns. Most Americans, including children, eat too much sodium (salt), which increases blood pressure. Replacing foods high in sodium with fresh fruits and vegetables can help lower blood pressure. But only 1 in 10 adults is getting enough fruits and vegetables each day. Diet high in trans-fat, saturated fat, and added sugar increases the risk factor for heart disease.
4 Ways to Take Control of Your Heart Health
Thing is, you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to your heart. It’s one of the top ailments that can be treated, cured, even reversed by making small, simple changes to your lifestyle.
Don’t Smoke. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, learn how to quit.
Manage Conditions. Work with your health care team to manage conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. For some, this includes taking any medicines you have been prescribed. The really good news is that dependency on medications can be decreased or eliminated through adherence to a physical program.
Make Heart-Healthy Eating Changes. Eat food low in trans-fat, added sugar and sodium. Try to fill at least half your plate with vegetables and fruits, and aim for low sodium options.Forget all this jargon about carbs and popularized diets.
Stay Active. Get moving for at least 150 minutes per week. There’s simply no excuse for finding and making the time to be active.And that means physical activity above and beyond what you do on a normal basis.
Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.