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Health Beat: Take it to Heart

Content by: NCES, Inc.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States. With heart disease comes the risk for heart attack, stroke and several other diseases.

Health Beat:  Take it to Heart






Where heart disease once was thought of as a disease that only affected older adults over 60, it is now a disease that is affecting people in their teens, 20’and 30’s. Heart disease does not develop overnight but takes years to fully develop.

People are suffering from heart disease at a younger and younger age every year, due to the increased convenience of foods and lack of physical activity. There are many risk factors that play a role in the development of heart disease. Some of those risk factors are controllable, where others such as gender, heredity and age are not. The controllable risk factors: high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, smoking, obesity, physical activity, diabetes, and stress can be reduced or eliminated through simple lifestyle changes.

Here are some tips on how to reduce your risk for developing heart disease:

Manage your cholesterol. Cholesterol performs several functions in the body. However, too much cholesterol can be harmful. Cholesterol levels rise due to the amount of saturated fat one has in their diet. One of the best things you can so to help control cholesterol is monitor your saturated fat intake through eating a well balanced diet.

Manage your Blood Pressure. High blood pressure makes the heart work harder and may eventually lead to stroke, heart disease, and heart failure. Blood pressure usually increases with age but can be controlled. To keep blood pressure in check you should: lose excess weight, be physically active, choose foods low in sodium and limit alcohol intake.

If you smoke – STOP! There is absolutely no safe way to smoke. Research shows that smokers are two to six times more likely to have a heart attack than those who do not smoke. If you quit, your risk drops dramatically.

Prevent weight gain or lose excess weight. Excess weight raises blood cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. The best way to lose weight is to focus on a heart-healthy eating plan. Choose more fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods, eat less saturated fat and processed foods and remember that portion control is very important.

Increase your physical activity level. Research has shown that even small amounts of exercise throughout the day are helpful in the prevention of heart disease and other related health problems. You should strive to get least 30 minutes of activity every day. Always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program. If you are new to exercise, start slow.

Quick Tip! There is no "normal" blood pressure. It varies by individual, but a reading is 120/80 is considered healthy. Strive for cholesterol levels under 200.

Next Steps:
1. Cut down on your saturated fat intake choose lean cuts of meat and replace whole milk or 2% with skim or 1% milk.
2. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grain products each day.
3. Choose foods that have been broiled, baked, or roasted instead of fried.
4. Exercise 30 minutes each day.

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