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Love Your Heart

By Dr. Tamara Warren, Extension Health and Nutrition Specialist

Love your heaartFebruary is National Heart Month, not only representing Valentine’s Day but also the human heart. This is a time for all individuals to love themselves and to learn more about heart health.

Cardiovascular diseases are heart and blood vessel diseases such as a heart attack and stroke, which are leading causes of death and disabilities among women and men. Approximately 600,000 people die each year from heart disease and 140,000 from stroke in America. 

There are many risk factors associated with heart diseases and stroke. Some risk factors are unmodifiable such as family history, ethnic background, and age.  Modifiable risk factors such as a diet high in fat and sodium, physical inactivity, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption can be reversed to improve health-related risk factors that lead to high blood pressure or hypertension, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. 

Cardiovascular diseases can be prevented or maintained by following these strategies.

#1: Know your numbers, which includes blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar (HgA1C), weight, and your body mass index.

#2: Choose a healthy diet that contains a variety of foods from all food groups: fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, fish, poultry, lean cuts of beef and pork, whole grains, and low-fat and fat-free dairy products. A variety of foods provide the body with various nutrients.

#3: Limit the amount of unsaturated and saturated fats, sodium, sugar, and refined grains like white bread and rice.  

#4: Limit alcohol consumption to 8 ounces a day, or 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.

#5: Watch portion sizes.

#6: Read Nutrition Facts labels on products.

#7: Exercise regularly. Adults should exercise for 150 minutes (30 minutes/day) per week of moderate activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity.  Aerobic exercises such as walking, jogging, or biking are beneficial for the heart. Note: Children are encouraged to engage in physical activities at least 60 minutes a day, including some form of aerobic activity at least 3 times a week.    

#8: Do not smoke.

#9: Manage other health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

#10: Take medications daily.

#11: Reduce stress.

Practicing healthy habits may be a struggle, but it brings lifelong benefits. Eating healthy, being physically active, and visiting your physician regularly is important in the prevention or maintenance of cardiovascular diseases. Use the key strategies to create an environment of health and wellness for your heart and the hearts you LOVE!


References

The American Heart Association. (2015). Getting healthy.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014, August 12). Heart disease.

Medline Plus. (2014, October 2). Heart diseases. National Institutes of Health-United States National Library of Medicine.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.  (2014, July 10). Lower heart disease risk.