February is American Heart month, a time to learn about cardiac disease and ways to live a heart healthy lifestyle. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, for both men and women. It claims upwards of one million people annually. Yet, there much that we can do to live a healthier, heart smart lifestyle.
Making small changes in your diet and activity can yield big changes in your overall health. Losing weight so as to achieve and maintain a healthy weight can reduce your risk of diabetes, elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure. The American Heart Association has identified seven behaviors that can have the biggest positive impact on your heart health. Their program is called, “Life’s Simple 7”.
The seven behaviors are as follows:
- Get active- 30 minutes of activity a day, times 5 days a week is recommended.
- Eat better- eat a low fat, low sodium, low cholesterol diet that is high in fiber and whole grains.
- Lose weight/maintain a healthy weight- obesity increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. Try to keep your BMI to 25% or less.
- Control cholesterol- keep your level to less than 200mg/dl, as elevated levels can block arteries and cause heart attacks and strokes.
- Manage blood pressure-first off, know your blood pressure. Hypertension often does not have any symptoms. Keep blood pressure at a normal range, through diet and exercise and possible medication, to lower your risk of stroke and heart disease.
- Reduce blood sugar-Keep your fasting blood glucose to less than 100mg/dl. Elevated blood glucose levels can cause damage to blood vessels and organs, increasing your risk for heart disease.
- Stop smoking-smoking cessation devices, classes and support groups, as well as online classes are available, to stop smoking. Cigarette smoking causes damage to blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and certain cancers.
“Life’s Simple 7” is a list of easily doable activities that will have a huge positive impact on your health and wellness. Check out the American Heart Association website for more information on risk factors, preventive measures, diet and exercise. Stay healthy!