Reducing your risk of Heart Disease
Posted on FEBRUARY 16, 2017
There is more to February than the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras. February is also National Heart Health Month. Sadly, heart disease claims approximately 1 million lives a year. It is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Good news, it is also one of the most preventable. By knowing your risk factors and making heart-healthy choices, you can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease.
In honor of Heart Month, here are some steps you can take on the road to reducing your risk of heart disease:
- Know your weight and body mass index (BMI). A body mass over 25 can mean an increased risk for heart disease. You can measure your BMI here with this online BMI calculator. Even a slight reduction in these numbers can lead to improvement in a blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar control. All of which are linked to heart health. Here are some tips for losing weight from UCSF Medical Center.
- Have your blood pressure checked. A healthy blood pressure reading usually falls under 120/80. Elevated blood pressure indicates extra strain on your arteries and heart which can lead to heart attacks and stroke. Your healthcare provider can discuss your blood pressure readings with you and formulate an individualized plan accordingly.
- Determine your current level of heart health and risk factors. The American Heart Association has a helpful online health assessment tool. My Life Check is designed to help you understand your current level of cardiovascular health, assess your individual health needs, commit to healthy next steps to improve your health and quality of life, and move you closer to your personal health goals. By inputting basic info such as age, weight, height and answering some questions about your eating habits and physical activity, you will receive a "heart score". You will then be given customized tips on how to improve your cardiovascular health. Be sure to visit periodically after making recommended changes to measure your improvement.
- If you smoke, QUIT! Tobacco use significantly increases your risk for heart attack and stroke. Quitting smoking is one of the single most important things you can do to slash your risk of heart disease. The carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke reduces the amount of oxygen the blood is able to carry. At the same time, the nicotine causes an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. Overtime, this creates a tremendous amount of “wear and tear” on the cardiovascular system. Smoke Free is a helpful resource when it comes to smoking cessation. You will find support, tools, tips, and expert advice to help you or someone you love quit smoking.
- Healthy lifestyle habits such as eating smart, managing stress and daily activity play key roles in the prevention of heart disease. Healthy For Good is a movement by the American Heart Association to encourage people to make lasting changes in their health and life. Their approach is “Eat smart. Add color. Move More. Be Well.” They will provide you with encouragement and resources to make small changes that have a big impact in your overall health. Having a robust support system like Healthy For Good offers sets you up for success in your health goals. For further reading on strategies to improve heart health through healthy lifestyle habits, check out this article from the The Mayo Clinic.
By assessing your risk factors, making healthy lifestyle changes and working with your healthcare provider, you can drastically reduce your risk of heart disease. Heart disease may be the number one killer of US men and women, but it is also preventable. Take the time to make heart health a priority in your life.
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