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One Thousand Words About Heart Health

February is American Heart Month-Learn what you can do to reduce your risks and live a longer, healthier (and happier) life!

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February is American Heart Month. What You Need to Know.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease (Health.gov). 

The good news is the we can all make changes to lower our risk of developing heart disease; and for those of us who have it already, we can get healthier and keep things from escalating.  I have been able to ditch one of my blood pressure pills with my weight loss so far and that’s been a huge motivator!  I’ve also been able to come off a muscle relaxers and pain meds for fibromyalgia but that’s a WHOLE different cupcake, so we’ll eat that another time! 

Quick and Dirty Run Down:

For the absolute basics on heart disease prevention and who is at risk, I actually just borrowed the layout of www.health.gov with some tweaking and format changes for readability.  Health.gov is a fantastic source for all things health related, not just heart health, just a little FYI.

Woman hiking in mountains-mindfulness
Take time for yourself and learn to be mindful and meditate – all activities that are heart healthy by helping you reduce your stress

To help prevent heart disease, you can:

  • Eat healthy – Don’t worry about the latest diet fad, just use an app like My Fitness Pal and it will help you figure out how many calories to eat based on your height and weight and goal weight, plus help you keep track of your food and water intake and exercise too.  MFP can also interface with fitbits to track your activity from there! And don’t forget to watch that salt intake. Read the labels on your food. You’d be surprised how much sodium is in any prepackaged foods.
  • Get active- If you’re like me, you need a lot of variety to keep moving.  I cannot go on the same walk, day after day and look at the same scenery every time.  Nor can I do the same exercise DVD or go to the gym and do the same routine each day.  So, mix it up and do whatever you have to do.  Look into classes at your local Y or community center.  Amazon Prime members have access to thousands of exercise videos with so many different levels and whatnot-seriously, everything from beginner’s tai chi to high intensity cardio with none other than Jillian Michaels and everything in between!  Check with your insurance company too, and the company you work for to see if there are benefits for gym memberships, fitness equipment or any other perks that you may have been missing out on.
  • Stay at a healthy weight – Break your weight loss up into smaller chunks with rewards like massages, pedicures, a weekend away … whatever.  Just so that it isn’t too overwhelming.  The beauty of this is that you will feel so great for having met that first goal, not to mention physically better from it, that continuing on will be just that much easier!
  • Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke– Get some help from your provider for this.  This is a hard, not impossible, habit to kick.
  • Control your cholesterol and blood pressure – This will happen when every other tidbit listed here is dealt with.
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation – This means not a six pack every day, but multiple studies show that a glass of wine each night is okay and may even be beneficial.
  • Manage stress – I am a big advocate for meditation.  I’m not saying sit naked under a tree, all twisted in a pretzel and saying, “Ohm” over and over.  You can sit wherever you like, although I would like to suggest a quiet area will make it easier, and certainly wear whatever makes you comfortable 😀 But I really do hope you learn about mediation and even download an app if you need to help you.  YouTube has a number of guided meditations available also.  The point is, meditation has been shown to increase our ability to deal with stress and life’s curve balls as well as think more clearly and logically in general.  
fresh produce-bins of produce-market
Eating at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies daily is a great step to great heart health

Am I at risk for heart disease?

Everyone is at risk for heart disease. But you are at higher risk for heart disease if you:

  • Have high cholesterol or high blood pressure 
  • Smoke
  • Are overweight or obese 
  • Don’t get enough physical activity
  • Don’t eat a healthy diet 

Your age and family history also affect your risk for heart disease. Your risk is higher if: 

  • You are a woman over age 55
  • You are a man over age 45
  • Your father or brother had heart disease before age 55
  • Your mother or sister had heart disease before age 65

Easier Said Than Done, Right?

I know.  Lose weight.  Quit smoking.  Eat better.  We hear it all the time.  If you’re like me, the getting started is the worst part.  While I don’t have the smoking issue, I have struggled with getting on the eating healthier train and still do have excess weight to work on.  I can honestly tell you that joining a group was a huge, HUGE help to me in this area.  There is also a study that I urge everyone to look into because, even if they aren’t affected personally, they more than likely have a loved one who is-The ACEs Study-done by the CDC and Kaiser-Permanente.  I strongly urge whomever is indeed affected, to speak to their medical provider and seek therapy and personal coaching with someone who is experienced in this phenomenon.  I promise you it will be the best thing you have ever done for yourself!  Once those past issues are dealt with, you will be shocked at how you quit sabotaging yourself and self-doubting and suffering from imposter syndrome. 

Regardless of whether you have been affected by ACEs or not, your primary care provider can be a great support and help you find the tools to work through your food, nicotine or whatever addictions.  The thing is, you need to be ready to make these changes or nothing will work.  It’s seriously that simple.  YOU have to decide that it’s TIME.

Don’t be a statistic.  Learn what you can about the risk factors of heart disease and stroke, as well as the signs of them happening and what to do in the event of them.

Blessings and well wishes to you and yours!

Tanya

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