Heart health has become a serious matter in the United States. The American Heart Association reports that someone in America dies from heart failure each minute; and a heart attack occurs somewhere in the country every 29 seconds. While family history can contribute to heart health, the real culprits are poor diet, stress, lack of exercise, smoking and excessive drinking. Most people cannot make over every aspect of their life overnight to avoid heart disease; however, achieving a healthier lifestyle can be done slowly by taking one step at a time.
Get to the proper weight for your body height and build -- and keep it there. Use a Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator -- such as at CDC.gov -- to get a body fat measurement for your height and weight. If you measure 25 or higher, you must watch for elevated blood pressure and blood fats. You are also at a higher risk for strokes or heart disease. Keep your waistline trim; women with waists measuring greater than 35 inches, or men measuring greater than 40 inches, are considered overweight and at higher risk for heart issues.
Change your diet in little ways if you can't make a complete overhaul of your eating habits. Eat heart-healthy snacks, such as nuts and fruits, instead of chips or sugary fruits all the time. Change to whole-grain bread products rather than eating white bread. Eat a few salads each week. Add vegetables to sandwiches and switch to leaner meats, including deli.
Start making home-cooked meals and snacks from fresh foods at home. Packing breakfast and lunch is a healthier, cheaper alternative to fast food. However, stay away from meals that are processed and pre-packaged -- these are full of heart-damaging salt, sugar and preservatives. Focus on adding fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, protein, dairy and fiber to your daily diet -- all necessary to heart health. Instead of eating a low-fat or low-carb diet, plan meals full of healthy foods and eat them in moderation; stop when you feel full instead of stuffing yourself.
Manage your stress. Prolonged stress can place strain on your body and heart, increasing your chances of heart attacks and strokes. Assess the stressors in your life honestly -- and then make some changes. Regular exercise, laughing, prayer and meditation, journaling and developing close friendships are just a few ways to ease the stress that piles up in your life on a daily basis. Working to resolve family issues, money worries or improve job conditions may need to be a priority, as well.
Stay current on important health screenings to check for high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides and even sugar diabetes. Keep your doctor advised on family history, as well as anything new that comes up with close relatives, such as parents or siblings, as well as yourself. If your doctor is overweight, appears physically unhealthy or does not take the time to discuss your heart health, find another medical practitioner.
- Centers For Disease Control: Body Mass Index
- NewsChannel5.com; Small Dietary Changes Can Make a Big Difference; February 2011
- Health.com; 12 Ways to Fight Stress and Help Your Heart; Amanda Gardner
- Health.com; How Crash Diets Like the Master Cleans Harm Your Health and Heart; Bryan Miller; June 2009
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