Heart disease, the leading cause of death in men and women, killed 600,000 people in 2014, accounting for deaths in the United States.
Coronary heart disease, a blockage of the arteries supplying the heart, is the most common type of heart disease. It costs the United States $109 billion in healthcare services that include medication, medical care, and lost productivity.
Risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, smoking, overweight and obesity, diabetes, poor diet, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol use. When you look at this list, it becomes clear that most if not all of these risk factors are controllable.
Obesity is the most prevalent risk factor for chronic diseases, such as heart disease. Sixty-nine percent of Americans fit into an obese or overweight category. We’ve become increasingly sedentary at home and work. Inactivity at the workplace has increased 83 percent in the past few decades, and fewer than 20 percent of jobs involve physical activity.
Technology can improve efficiencies at work, but it’s not doing much to make our bodies more efficient. In order to combat chronic diseases such as heart disease, we need to improve our diets and levels of physical activity.
BELOW ARE RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION FOR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND NUTRITION:
|For Overall Cardiovascular Health:|
For Lowering Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
The easiest and most effective way to begin an exercise program is to start walking. It is easy, sociable, can be done anywhere, and doesn’t cost a penny. It is easy to make a walking program part of your daily routine and it doesn’t have to be 30 minutes continuously: You can break it up into three 10-minute sessions per day.
Find an exercise partner, whether it’s a spouse, friend or work colleague, who will hold you accountable. This way, when you don’t feel up to walking, you will have someone to nag you and help you through those difficult (lazy) times.
WALKING HAS MANY HEALTH BENEFITS:
- Improves blood circulation
- Improves cholesterol levels
- Decreases anxiety and stress leading to decreased depression
- Improves energy and metabolism
- Improves sleep patterns
- Reduces risk of heart disease (by 30 to 40 percent)
- Reduces risk of stroke (by 20 percent)
- Keeps weight under control
The key to a healthful diet is eating nutrient-dense foods versus calorie-dense foods. Our diets should consist of high-quality proteins, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and limited amounts of sugary foods and beverages.
The key is to make small and subtle lifestyle changes that you can sustain rather than biting off more than you can chew (pun intended). It may take longer to see positive results, but your odds of success will be greater. Somehow the tortoise always wins the race, and so will you if you go slow and steady.
As with any medical condition, consult with your physician to map out the most appropriate course for you. This may include medications that can help stabilize your cholesterol and blood pressure. Your physician may be able to guide you into community-based programs that will help on your road to healthy lifestyle changes.
Recognize that when navigating change in your life, you will have peaks and valleys and many turns along the way. The greatest obstacle to success occurs inside of us, not outside. Good luck and good heart health!