February is National Heart Health month! What a perfect time to assess your health habits and determine if you are being kind to your heart. Heart Disease, which includes hypertension, stroke, and coronary heart disease, is the #1 cause of death in the United States. Heart Disease claims the lives of about 640,000 Americans each year – that equals 1 in every 4 deaths. It is estimated that every 40 seconds, an American will have a heart attack.
What are the Risk Factors?
Approximately one in every three US adults do not engage in leisure time physical activity.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, we should be aiming for at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity at a moderate to vigorous intensity level every week along with 2-4 days of strength exercises.
Physically fit people are 8 times less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and have a reduced risk of premature death by 53% in men and 98% in women.
Regular exercise can reduce blood pressure and can prevent or reduce the need for blood pressure medications. It also helps to reduce harmful LDL cholesterol and increase the good HDL cholesterol levels.
A healthy diet can greatly impact reducing your risk for heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke.
The following are general recommendations to get on track with making good food choices:
Incorporate plenty of fruits and vegetables. Aim for 5 or more servings daily. Most are low in fat, calories, sodium and cholesterol. They also contain fiber and many of the vitamins and nutrients our bodies need.
Choose whole grains foods (ex, whole wheat breads, brown rice, whole wheat pastas) instead of refined carbohydrates (ex, white breads, white pastas and rice, cookies, cakes). Eating too many refined grains can cause weight gain which can lead to heart disease.
Choose healthy protein sources: lean meat, chicken, fish, lentils, nuts, eggs, and low fat dairy. Limit high-fat proteins: prime cuts of steak, organ meats, full fat sausage cuts, hot dogs, duck, full fat dairy.
Not all fats are created equally. Saturated and trans fats can cause cholesterol to accumulate in your arteries and places you at risk for heart attack, stroke and other health conditions. Foods high in saturated fat include: butter, cheese, whole milk, lard, and fatty meats. Foods high in trans fats include: packaged snacks, solid margarine, donuts, pastries). Limit total fat intake to 25% to 35% of total daily calories. Of those calories, limit saturated fat to 5% to 6%.
Limit sodium intake to no more than 2300 mg daily. If on blood pressure medication, limit to 1500 mg daily.
Chemicals contained in cigarette smoke causes the cells that line the blood vessels to become inflamed and swollen. This narrows the blood vessels and can lead to many cardiovascular conditions such as stroke, coronary artery disease, and atherosclerosis(hardening of the arteries).
Worldwide, tobacco smoking was one of the top 3 risk factors for disease and was associated with 7.2 million deaths in 2015. It causes approximately 1 in every 4 deaths from Cardiovascular Disease.
People who smoke fewer than 5 cigarettes daily may still show signs of early heart disease.
Exposure to secondhand smoke is also a concern. 33,000 nonsmokers die yearly in the U.S. from coronary artery disease caused by secondhand smoke.
A recent study concluded that adults between ages 40 and 59 who are overweight or obese have a much higher risk (21 to 85 percent higher) of developing cardiovascular disease as compared with adults at a normal weight.
Overweight is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 29.9. Obesity is considered a BMI of 30 or higher. Individuals who are within either of these two weight categories have a much greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease at a younger age.
Research is also showing that individuals who are obese have shorter lifespans.
If you are in need of guidance with weight loss and addressing the above factors, please contact us here at BlueSky MD. We are fully staffed with doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, registered dietitian, and wellness coaches who understand both the emotional and physical challenges with weight loss. We are ready to help guide you to prevent disease and obtain optimal health and wellness.