Food Fun and Facts Five Steps to Better Heart Health
Five Steps to Better Heart Health
(Family Features) - Heart disease - or cardiovascular disease -
seems like something that happens to other people. But the truth is,
about one third of adult Americans have some form of cardiovascular
disease. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 80
million Americans - that's one of every three adults - live with one or
more types of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
The toll this takes is enormous. In addition to reducing quality of
life and raising health care costs, heart disease kills more people
than any other disease, including cancer. The CDC estimates that every
37 seconds, someone dies from heart disease.
What can you do to reduce your risk of heart disease? Following
these five steps can help you take control of your heart health and put
you on the path to a healthier life.
1. Know the Risk Factors. Knowledge is power. Once you know what behaviors and conditions contribute to the problem, you can take action.
Unhealthy Diet. Foods high in saturated fats
and cholesterol raise blood pressure levels and promote
atherosclerosis. Too much sodium causes high blood pressure levels as
Physical Inactivity. A sedentary lifestyle impacts blood pressure, the amount of good cholesterol and triglycerides in the body, and weight.
Tobacco smoke contains more than 4800 chemicals, many of them damaging
to the heart. Cigarette smoking promotes atherosclerosis (narrowing of
the arteries) and raises the levels of blood clotting factors. Nicotine
raises blood pressure and heart rates, and carbon monoxide reduces the
amount of oxygen the blood can carry. Exposure to second-hand smoke can
significantly increase the risk of heart disease in non-smokers.
Heredity. Genetic factors may play some role in high blood pressure, heart disease and other vascular conditions.
2. Know Your Numbers. High blood pressure and
high cholesterol can damage your heart and blood vessels. But without
testing them, you probably won't know whether or not you have these
conditions. It's important that you know what your levels are, to keep
track of them over time, and to share them with care givers and family
members. Using online personal health management applications like Mayo
Clinic Health Manager, can simplify how you organize and track your
numbers and assist in determining your personal blood pressure and
Adults should have their blood pressure checked at least every
two years. You may need more frequent checks if your numbers aren't
optimal, or if you have other risk factors for heart disease. Optimal
blood pressure is less than 120/80 millimeters of mercury.
should have their cholesterol measured at least once every five years.
You may need more frequent testing if your numbers aren't optimal or if
you have other risk factors for heart disease. The optimal cholesterol
levels are determined by the number or risk factors and other diagnosis.
3. Stop Using Tobacco Products. When you quit
smoking, your risk of heart disease is dramatically reduced within just
one year. No matter how long or how much you've smoked, you start
reaping rewards as soon as you quit. Talk to your doctor about
effective ways to stop smoking. In addition, you can find online tools
and information at
4. Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet. Many doctors
recommend the DASH diet - DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop
Hypertension. That may not sound like a tempting menu description, but
eating to protect your heart really can be delicious and satisfying.
Reducing the amounts of saturated and trans fat you eat is key.
Sources of saturated fat include beef, butter, cheese, milk, and
coconut and palm oils. Check package labels for "partially
hydrogenated" to avoid trans fats.
Heart-healthy eating isn't all about cutting things out. The DASH
diet is rich in fruits and vegetables (the recommendation is 5 servings
a day), whole grains and other foods that can help protect your heart,
help you control your weight, and improve overall health. Learn more at
5. Get Moving. Physical activity can reduce
your risk of fatal heart disease. It helps you control weight and
reduces your chances of developing other conditions that may put a
strain on your heart, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and
diabetes. It also reduces stress, which may be a factor in heart
Guidelines recommend exercising vigorously at least 150 minutes per week.
Keep in mind that gardening, housekeeping, taking the stairs and walking the dog all count toward your total time.
Try to maintain a BMI (body mass index) of 25 to 30.
It's easier than you think to prevent and manage heart disease.
Taking small steps can make a big difference. Start following these
five steps, and track your progress using an application like Mayo
Clinic Health Manager at www.healthmanager.mayoclinic.com. It's free and you don't have to be a Mayo Clinic patient to use it.
Online Tools for Creating Better Cardio Care
The more you know about your own health and habits, and the more
proactive you are in taking care of yourself, the better off you'll be.
To help people manage their health better, Mayo Clinic and Microsoft
worked together to develop Mayo Clinic Health Manager, www.healthmanager.mayoclinic.com, powered by Microsoft HealthVault.
Mayo Clinic Health Manager is a free privacy-and-security-enhanced
online application where you can organize your health information and
receive personalized guidance.
Take a heart disease risk assessment to find out more about your chances for developing a fatal heart condition.
Use the Prepare for Appointment feature to customize and print relevant information on medications, blood pressure and cholesterol before a doctor's visit.
personalized heart health guidance based on expertise of Mayo Clinic
physicians. The amount of information you provide influences the
recommendations you will receive.
Mayo Clinic Health Manager allows you to create custom trackers for:
Blood pressure (you can download data directly from compatible devices like blood pressure cuffs)
View the charts over time to see if everything is in check. Based on
the information you enter, you'll receive reminders for screenings you
may need and the latest information on heart health.