February is American Heart Month, and we wanted to take a few minutes to talk you through factors that often determine risk for heart disease, how it impacts women especially, and provide you with five easy things you can do with and for your family to help improve their overall heart health.
Did you know that heart disease is a killer that strikes more women than men, and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined? While one in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, heart disease claims the lives of one in three. That’s roughly one death each minute.
While high blood pressure, high LDL (bad) cholesterol and smoking are the key heart diseases risk factors (nearly 49% of Americans have at least one of these factors), there are several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices that also put people at higher risk for heart diseases. They are:
- Overweight and obesity
- Poor diet
- Physical inactivity
- Excessive alcohol use
Heart Health for Children
The American Heart Association recommends that children over the age of 2 get at least 60 minutes of age-appropriate physical activity to promote a healthy heart.
Physical activity has been associated with increased life expectancy and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, and it also produces physical, psychological and social benefits:
- Controlling weight
- Reducing Blood Pressure
- Raising HDL (good) cholesterol
- Reducing the risk of diabetes and some kinds of cancer
- Improved psychological well-being, including gaining more self-confidence and higher self-esteem
5 Tips for Heart Health
- 1. Exercise 40 minutes a day, 3-4 times a week. Think you don’t have time? We understand the feeling, but you’ll get the same heart health benefits if you divide your time into two or three 10- to 15- minute segment a day. Some easy ways to get started are as follows:
- Get the leash out and walk your dog. Simple and effective – it’s good for you and for your pooch.
- Play with your child. As we mentioned above, children need a lot of physical activity to be at their healthiest. Go on a brisk walk, play tag or a sport to help squeeze in those extra minutes of activity.
- Even if you’re stuck on work calls, that doesn’t mean you have to be stuck to your seat. Make it a habit to talk and walk while on the phone.
- Use TV time as an opportunity to walk or jog in place or use free weights
- Take the stairs or park further away from the store or office building, as way to squeeze a little extra exercise by walking.
- Cook and eat “Heart Healthy.” This means eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, poultry, fish, nuts and avoiding red meat, as well as sugary and processed foods. The American Heart Association’s website, Go Red for Women, has some great recipes to help you get started.
- Reduce sodium intake to lower blood pressure. The average adult consumes about 3,600 mg daily, but you should reduce your sodium intake to no more than 2,400 mg a daily.
- Drink lots of water and limit alcohol and other high-calorie drinks.
- Avoid tobacco smoke. Everyone has heard that smoking is bad for our health. Check out this research that shows how quitting smoking reduces our heart risk. The time to quit is now!
You have the power to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, not only for yourself, but also for your family. We hope this post was helpful in providing practical tips to help you get started.
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