Heart disease runs in the American family. It kills more of us each year than anything else. One in four Americans die every year from it, and it is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Among most ethnic groups, heart disease accounts for the highest percentage of deaths. Only Native Americans are more likely to die from another ailment.
All the violent movies and TV shows cannot shed an accurate light on the biggest danger to American individuals. Heart disease has lurked ominously as fine print to American life for generations. With all the research and scores of healthy practices in our scope, you and I can fight it and put it, finally, to rest.
As February winds down, there are more than likely many sighs of relief. After all, we are one step closer to spring. The yearly curse of the groundhog becomes less relevant and our thoughts turn toward happier things, like Easter, and sunshine.
But if the author could change your mind for just a moment, you might recall the finer things about the second month. Black History Month, Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and Valentine’s Day are all unique to February. In a month so dedicated to love and awareness, it is only fitting that we also celebrate February as American Heart Month.
February 1964 was the first of now over fifty American Heart Months. Then-president Lyndon B. Johnson, himself a heart attack survivor, signed the initiative to help the U.S. tackle this epidemic. Since the inception of American Heart Month, deaths from heart disease have fallen dramatically. This encouraging trend continues as awareness increases and people continue to take their health seriously. However, the problem still persists. Thus, it still requires our efforts and attention.
There is a long and wide buffet table of ways to contract heart disease. Death rates have gone down so starkly in the past half-century largely due to the decrease in popularity of smoking. Smoking can contribute to the buildup of plaque in the arteries. This subsequently cuts off the blood supply to the heart. Smoking itself causes one in five deaths in the U.S., and the risk increases when it leads to heart disease.
You don’t have to be a smoker to affect your heart health, however. Physical inactivity and a poor, unbalanced diet are much more common.
With the plenitude of healthy foods and vitamins available, one would think it easier to maintain a healthy diet. However, for every fat free salad and organic smoothie, there are one hundred different fast food chains and processed TV dinners. All too often, we sacrifice a balanced meal in favor of convenience.
The same goes for physical inactivity. Whether by choice or circumstance, most Americans don’t get a fraction of the exercise they need to maintain a healthy level of activity. It is rarely a seamless part of our life. It is something we need to plan and make time for. Plus, we often associate exercise with pain. That’s because exercise can be the worst.
Other times still, heart disease comes as a result of indelible genetic makeup. And what can you do for that?
Thankfully, there are certain lifestyle changes and choices you can make – whether during February or beyond – to prevent heart disease.
Changes to your lifestyle can be intimidating and even scary. You should always start off small. This will not only make sure you actually follow through with your plan, but it is also better to ease your body into new routines.
Here are some small and simple things you can start doing today. You will thank yourself tomorrow.
Resisting heart disease can start off as simply as moving around more. Whether at the office or at home, you can get up and stretch and move around for a couple minutes every now and then. Keep the blood circulating and your limbs operating. Your heart is only as strong as the amount of blood, i.e. life, it receives.
Furthermore, the CDC recommends you get 150 minutes of exercise weekly. As intimidating as this may sound, it really is quite reachable. A short walk around the block each day will get you most or all of the way there. Not a run, just a brisk walk. Push-ups at bedtime are also a personal favorite.
You don’t need to be a bodybuilder to have an amazing, healthy body. You just need to move it around.
What makes a meal “heart healthy?” Perhaps it is easier to designate which foods are not, because frankly, they are easier to spot.
Something that most fast food chains have in common is that their food is extremely high in sodium. Sodium in itself is not unhealthy. But high quantities contribute to high blood pressure. High blood pressure is very closely associated with heart disease. Even if you don’t eat out at fast food often or ever, plenty of home-cooked meals can contain too much sodium. Try cutting back on the salt and salty ingredients to make for more “heart healthy” eating.
Consuming more dietary fibers may also offset the negative affects of some foods. Healthy cereals, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds are all linked to a lower blood pressure and body-mass index.
You may remember the Cheerio’s commercials promoting the cereal’s ability to lower cholesterol. What it – and other foods such as fish, nuts, and Omega-3 rich plates – is actually doing is lowering your level of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. This is the “bad” type of cholesterol. This, like smoking, causes plaque build-up along the walls of your arteries. HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is the good stuff. You find it in the foods listed above.
Additionally, make sure your “heart healthy” meals are low in trans fat. Trans fat means LDL. And LDL means heart disease, son.
Going to see the doctor is something we don’t tend to make a habit of, but it is undoubtedly a wise practice. Regular visits enable a medical professional to give you invaluable lifestyle advice. If you need to adjust your eating or exercise habits, your doctor is the most qualified individual to guide you.
In addition to serving your chiropractic needs, Allied Health Care is also a family practice. Schedule an appointment today if you haven’t had one in a while. And if you are already healthy, there’s nothing quite like a doctor verifying that for you.
If you suffer from high blood pressure, or are simply vigilant in your health, you can check your blood pressure yourself. A high-fitting bicep cuff is what you’ll need for this. You can get them at a reasonable price, and it will help keep you conscious about your health. If you aren’t vigilant about your blood pressure now, you can be with this professional tool. And since blood pressure can change all the time, it is helpful to do it frequently.
When you know your own levels, you can adjust your lifestyle accordingly.Then when you go into the doctor, you can go with confidence, knowing you are doing your part.
Heart disease is a pernicious foe, but it is not indestructible. Healthy living practices such as exercise, “heart healthy” meals, regular visits to the doctor, and being aware of your own health are key. The more we educate ourselves on heart disease the better-equipped we will be.
Here’s to another half-century of successfully battling heart disease.