In 1964, more than half of all U.S. deaths were caused
by cardiovascular disease. That year, President Lyndon
B. Johnson established American Heart Month as a way
to get more people to focus on heart health.
Since then, better treatments, prevention and
medications have come along, and the percentage of
those dying because of heart disease has decreased. Still,
it’s the leading cause of death.
These days, one out of four Americans will die from
the ailment, and millions of us have at least one of the top
three risk factors: high blood pressure, high cholesterol
and smoking (which plays havoc with blood vessels and
is the leading cause of preventable death).
Conditions and behaviors that affect one’s risk for
Obesity, which affects one in three adults.
Diabetes, which can damage both blood vessels and
nerves; it affects about 10 percent of the population.
Physical inactivity. A mere 20 percent get the
recommended 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity
Unhealthy eating patterns. Only one in ten eats enough
fruits and vegetables each day, and most people consume
too much sugar and salt.
Small steps to get you headed in the right direction:
Take a walk. Even a ten-minute stroll beats lounging
in the recliner and 2.5 hours of walking each week can
cut your risk of heart disease by 30 percent.
One study found that those who walked 10,000 steps per
day were 46 percent less likely to die within the next ten years
compared to their sedentary peers.
Work out with weights. Research shows that weight
training is more effective in building muscle and reducing
fat than aerobic activity.
Swim or bike. It’s the perfect cardio exercise for those
with arthritic joints.
Eat one extra fruit or vegetable each day. Eliminate
sodas. Replace sweets with nuts. Use stevia as a sugar
alternative; choose spices over salt to enhance food flavor.
Swap a red meat dish for fish or chicken.
Engage in activities you will enjoy such as dancing,
kickboxing, Zumba, yoga, tennis or pickle ball. If it’s fun,
you’re more likely to stay with it.
Dick Clark was once asked how he managed to stay
looking so young and healthy. His response: “Choose
your parents very carefully.” While you can’t change
your age or pick your family, even modest changes to
your diet and lifestyle can improve your heart health and
lower your risk significantly.
For more information, contact the American Heart Association at www.heart.org.