Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States? I apologize for starting on such a somber note, but heart disease is no laughing matter, and deserves every bit of attention that it is getting. Luckily, heart disease is preventable in most cases, and diet and exercise can have a huge impact on your risk! This February is American Heart Month and it’s the perfect time to learn all you can about heart disease!
Heart Disease is currently responsible for roughly 1 in 4 deaths in this country and is usually classified by a buildup of plaque in the heart that can affect your hearts ability to function properly. Although these numbers are not encouraging, it’s important for you to know what your risk factors may be, and what you can be doing to help reverse them!
Uncontrollable risk factors are risk factors that are out of someone’s control:
- Gender – males are at greater risk.
- Age – the older you get, the higher the risk.
- Family history – a family history of heart disease increases your risk.
- Post-menopausal – women who are post-menopausal are at greater risk.
Controllable risk factors are risk factors that someone has control over:
- Diet – high fat foods increase your risk, while nutritious foods decrease it.
- Smoking – tobacco use has a direct effect on your heart health and can increase your risk.
- Blood pressure – high blood pressure puts a lot of pressure on your heart, making it work even harder, and increases your risk.
- Weight – being overweight or obese increases your risk.
- Physical activity – exercise can decrease “bad” cholesterol in your blood and keep your heart strong, decreasing your risk.
I know these risk factors can seem overwhelming, but the good news is that all of these risk factors are within your control! Being proactive today can help reverse the tide of this growing disease, and can help protect you and your loved ones!
Reduce Your Risk
There are several ways you can reduce your risk of developing heart disease, and they all start with you! Heart disease is often called a ‘lifestyle disease’ because, you guessed it, it’s closely associated with your lifestyle choices!
When thinking about your risk of heart disease, try incorporating these 4 strategies to lower your risk:
- Exercise: it’s recommended that you get at least 150 minutes each week of physical activity. Thirty minutes a day, 5 days a week may sound like a lot, but you can do it! If going to the gym is not your thing, there are other ways you can sneak in those 30 minutes a day. Try taking the stairs any chance you get, do a few minutes of jumping jacks in the morning and go for an after-dinner walk. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can hit 30 minutes, and have fun at the same time!
- Eat your fruits and veggies: Try centering each meal around fruits and vegetables. Getting 2-4 servings of fruit and 3-5 servings of vegetables each day can help improve your overall health, lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure and can have you feeling great! Be sure to branch out and try eating fruits and vegetables from all different colors to maximize the variety of nutrients you are eating each day!
- Choose whole grains: Choosing whole grains will help ensure that you are consuming a lot of heart healthy fiber each day! Look for products that say 100% whole grain on the package or pair those delicious vegetables with sweet potatoes, brown rice or quinoa for a nutrient-packed meal!
- Choose low-fat meats and dairy: Choosing lower fat meats such as skinless chicken or fish can help lower the amount of saturated fat you are consuming each day, which has been negatively linked to heart disease risk. The same can be said for dairy, so when choosing dairy products choose fat-free or 1% dairy products!
Taking early action is your best defense against heart disease. Along with the guidelines above, try limiting saturated fats, trans fat, sodium and sweets to help lower your risk. Your health is in your hands, and the time to act is now!
Your turn to take action: How will you decrease your risk of heart disease? Let me know in the comments below!