February is National Heart Month

Sounds simple doesn't it? Heart disease is the  No. 1 cause of death in the United States. Stroke is the No. 5 cause of death in theUnited States. One of the biggest contributors to these statistics is a lack of commitment to a heart healthy lifestyle. Your lifestyle is not only your best defense against heart disease and stroke, it's also your responsibility. A heart-healthy lifestyle includes the ideas listed below. By following these simple steps you can reduce all of the modifiable risk factors for heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

Stop Smoking: We know it's hard, but recovering from a heart attack or stroke or living with chronic heart disease is harder.

High blood pressure: Fat lodged in your arteries is a disaster waiting to happen. Sooner or later it could trigger a heart attack or stroke. You've got to reduce your intake of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol and get moving. If diet and physical activity alone don't get those numbers down, then medication may be the key. Take it just like the doctor orders.

Lower your blood pressure: It's a major risk factor for stroke a leading cause of disability in the United States. Stroke recovery is difficult at best and you could be disabled for life. Shake that salt habit, take your medications as recommended by your doctor and get moving. Those numbers need to get down and stay down. An optimal blood pressure reading is less than 120/80 mmHg.

Be physically active: Be physically active every day. Research has shown that 3–4 sessions per week, lasting on average 40 minutes per session, and involving moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity can help lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and keep your weight at a healthy level. But something IS better than nothing. If you're doing nothing now, start out slow. Even 10 minutes at a time may offer some health benefits. Studies show that people who have achieved even a moderate level of fitness are much less likely to die early than those with a low fitness level.

Aim for a health weight: Obesity is highly prevalent in America, not only for adults but also for children. Fad diets and supplements are not the answer. Good nutrition, controlling calorie intake and physical activity are the only way to maintain a healthy weight. Obesity places you at risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and insulin resistance, a precursor of type 2 diabetes — the very factors that heighten your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Manage your diabetes: At least 68% of people >65 years of age with DM die of some form of HD; 16% die of stroke . Other risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, and lack of physical activity can greatly increase a person with diabetes’ chance of developing cardiovascular disease.

Reduce stress: A few studies have noted a relationship between coronary heart disease risk and stress in a person's life that may affect the risk factors for heart disease and stroke. For example, people under stress may overeat, start smoking or smoke more than they otherwise would. Research has even shown that stress reaction in young adults predicts middle-age blood pressure risk.

Limit Alcohol: Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure, increase cardiomyopathy, stroke, cancer, and other diseases It can contribute to high triglycerides and produce irregular heartbeats. Excessive alcohol consumption contributes to obesity, alcoholism, suicide and accidents.

However, there is a cardioprotective effect of moderate alcohol consumption. If you drink, limit your alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one drink per day for women. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines on drink as 1-1/2 fluid ounces (fl oz) of 80-proof spirits (such as bourbon, Scotch, vodka, gin, etc.), 5 fl oz of wine, or 12 fl oz of regular beer. It's not recommended that nondrinkers start using alcohol or that drinkers increase the amount they drink.

For more information go to: www.heart.org

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