Heart disease is the number one leading health hazard in America. So keeping your heart healthy and knowing the risks factors you can control go along way to maintaining a healthy life. The risk factors you can control are: diet, activity, weight, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes and smoking. The risk factors you can’t control are: age, gender and family history.
You are what you eat! One organ of the body that knows this intimately is your heart. So eating a variety of nutritionally dense foods keeps your body and especially your heart happy and healthy. Strive to consume between 5 servings per day of vegetables, 4 servings per day of fruit. Eat 6 servings per day of high fiber grains and try to get most of your fat sources from vegetables oils such as olive oil and avocado. Protein sources from vegetable, fish and lean meats are healthier for your heart than highly saturated choices. A diet rich in colorful vegetables, fruits, fiber and lean meats can significantly lower your chances of heart disease throughout your lifetime.
Daily physical activity is critical to protecting your heart. The benefits are:
- Physical activity burns calories to help achieve and maintain a healthy weight
- Lowers blood pressure and improved blood cholesterol levels
- Activity improves your mood and reduces anxiety and depression
- Strengthens your bones and muscles; helps prevent osteoporosis
- Improves insulin issues and helps prevent or control Type II diabetes
- Reduces certain types of cancers
Maintaining a healthy weight helps your heart so it doesn’t have to work so hard. But what is a healthy weight? Experts are now using the body mass index to measure a healthy weight range. Keeping your body mass index below 25 has shown to reduce many risks of disease especially heart disease. Also keeping your waist measurement for men below 35” and woman below 33” has also shown to lower your risks for heart disease.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a very common health problem in America. The good news is lowering your blood pressure can be achieved through maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active and avoid or quit smoking. Normal blood pressure is 120 (Systolic) over 80 (Diastolic). Eating plenty of fruit, vegetables and reducing saturated fats and salt can have a huge affect on lowering blood pressure.
An elevated cholesterol level can be caused by hereditary factors but it also can be excess body fat, eating too much saturated fat or not enough foods high in fiber. To keep your heart healthy lower your cholesterol. Total cholesterol less than 200 is desirable, less than 160 is ideal. Also, drink plenty of water, at least twice your weight in ounces.
Diabetes results when the body cannot break down glucose. The excess glucose accumulates in the blood and can cause insulin resistance. The effects of this are harmful to your heart. Type I Diabetes usually occurs in childhood when the pancreas stops producing insulin. Type II Diabetes occurs when your body becomes insulin resistant. Type II can be controlled and reversed through diet, exercise and sometimes medication.
Smoking is just not good for any part of your body, especially the heart. Make a choice to stop smoking and seek help. It will be the number one thing you can do to be healthy. Contact you doctor for help.
Taking the time to access your risks and making the necessary changes will go along way to keeping your heart (and health) in tip-top shape for a lifetime!