Mainstream Living

You and Your Heart

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths is caused by heart disease. Heart disease can happen at any age.  Half of all Americans have at least one of the three leading risk factors for heart disease – high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. 

February is American Heart Month, sponsored by the American Heart Association. This is the perfect time to learn about the risk factors for heart disease and and start making decisions which will lead to a healthier heart. Each of the three heart disease risk factors can be addressed with changes in lifestyle, diet, and with the help of a primary care doctor. 

High blood pressure can be reduced with exercise, reducing sodium consumption, eating more potassium rich foods, drinking less alcohol, and losing weight. It can also be helpful to limit caffeine intake as well as reducing daily stress. These changes in diet and exercise can reduce blood pressure, as do prescription medications as directed by a doctor.

High cholesterol can often be treated by understanding fat consumption. Reducing saturated fats and eliminating trans fats are two ways to help cholesterol. These are typically found in red meats, full fat dairy, and processed foods. Be sure to increase fiber and add omega-3 fatty acids which can be found in fish and nuts. Read labels when purchasing processed foods to become aware of the types of fats in each food. 

Quitting smoking can be a very difficult process but there are many helpful outlets once the decision has been made. There are over the counter smoking succession aides, such as gum, lozenges, or patches. The Iowa Quitline will provide coupons for these items to help with the financial burden of quitting. There are apps for phones to help give tips, advice, and track progress.  There are also medications that can be prescribed by a physician in order to help reduce cravings and urges.

There are many ways to start taking steps in the right direction for a healthy heart. Here are some simple tips to start moving towards a healthier and happier you!

  • Eat 4-5 cups of fruits or vegetables a day
  • Avoid saturated fats and eliminate trans fats
  • Get 30 minutes of exercise a day – it can be broken down into three 10-minute periods.
  • Don’t sit in one place for too long – move around
  • Limit sodium and sugary beverages
  • Get enough sleep and go to bed early
  • Park at the far end of the parking lot and take the stairs
  • Limit caffeine – especially sugar loaded coffee drinks and sodas
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