Eighty percent of heart disease and stroke preventable
February 26, 2015
No matter where you are in life, it’s never too late to make better health choices. All you need is a goal, a plan and the desire to live a longer, healthier life.
For Heart Month, the American Heart Association (AHA) challenges Los Angeles residents to commit to one simple lifestyle change for a start to improve your heart and brain health. It recommends seven factors – called Life’s Simple 7 – to keep in check to significantly lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Smoking is the most important preventable cause of premature death in the United States. As soon as you stop smoking, your risk of heart disease and stroke starts to drop. In time, your risk will be about the same as if you had never smoked. Quit-smoking programs are available through hospitals, and many states have hotlines with trained staff to help.
Regular physical activity has many proven benefits including lowering blood pressure and reducing stress. The AHA recommends getting at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most or all days of the week. Making small choices throughout the day like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or choosing the furthest parking spot will get you on the right track to heart healthy living.
Consume a wide variety of nutritious foods from each of the basic food groups. Eat at least 4.5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day, at least two servings of fish per week and three 1-oz servings of fiber-rich whole grains daily. Limit sodium to less than 1,500 mg per day and sugar-sweetened beverages to no more than 36 ounces per week. Include unsalted nuts, legumes and seeds in your diet and choose unprocessed meats and fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
If you are overweight or obese, you are more prone to health problems. You can reduce your risk by losing weight and keeping it off. It’s a matter of balancing what you eat with the energy that you burn. A high-risk waistline is 35 inches or more for women and 40 inches or more for men. Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30.0 kg/m2 or greater, or about 30 pounds or more overweight.
Manage Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is the single most significant risk factor for heart disease. These changes may help reduce your blood pressure: staying physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress, limiting alcohol, avoiding tobacco smoke, and eating a heart-healthy diet, which includes reducing salt intake. Make a pledge to reduce sodium in your diet at http://www.heart.org/sodium.
Cholesterol is an important part of a healthy body but too much cholesterol in the blood is a major risk for coronary heart disease and for stroke. A total blood cholesterol level of 240 mg/dL or higher is too high. Levels of 200–239 are borderline-high risk. To keep your cholesterol under control: schedule a screening, eat foods low in cholesterol and saturated fat and free of trans fat, maintain a healthy weight, and stay physically active.
Reduce Blood Sugar
A healthy non-diabetic adult should have a reading of less than 100 mg/dL. If your fasting blood sugar level is between 100 mg/dL and 125 mg/dL, you have “pre-diabetes,” which increases the risk for developing diabetes and heart disease. It is critical for people with diabetes to have regular check-ups. Work closely with your healthcare provider to manage your diabetes and control any other risk factors.
Remember, you can stop heart disease before it even starts. Start small. And keep it simple. Make one change today and then challenge yourself to make another.
To learn more about Life’s Simple 7, go to mylifecheck.org. For more tips and resources on healthy living, visit heart.org/gettinghealthy.