Smart for a Healthy Heart
By Janice Billingsley, HealthScoutNews
-- Scientists have done their job when it comes to heart disease
research, identifying the lifestyle changes that can reduce the
risk of heart attacks by up to 50 percent.
Now, what's your
not make the date of your first heart attack the same [as] when
you make the decision to reduce your risks," says Dr. Rose
Marie Robertson, the medical director of Vanderbilt University's
Women's Heart Institute.
disease, which includes strokes as well as heart attacks, is the
leading cause of death in this country, responsible for 60 percent
of deaths annually, according to the American Heart Association
the risks posed by cardiovascular disease are far greater than breast
cancer -- it accounts for one out of every 2.4 deaths among women,
while breast cancer is responsible for one in every 30 deaths.
But the good
news is that you can take plenty of steps to protect yourself --
if you don't wait until it's too late.
reduce your chances for a heart attack by 50 percent by taking preventative
measures," says Dr. Charles Bertrand, a cardiologist and professor
at the New York Medical College.
The five biggest
threats to heart health that you can control are high blood pressure,
elevated cholesterol levels, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and
diet, the doctors say.
a healthy heart, here are their recommendations:
pressure: Check your blood pressure at least twice a year,
either at the doctor's office or even at the machines in drugstores
or supermarkets, Bertrand says. Normal blood pressure is 120/80,
and it should be no higher than 140/90. If it exceeds that level,
see your doctor, who can recommend dietary changes or medication.
There are three components of cholesterol to pay attention to:
low density (LDL) cholesterol, often called the "bad' cholesterol
because it can clog blood vessels such as arteries; high density
(HDL) cholesterol, called "good" cholesterol because
is tends to carry excess cholesterol back to the liver; and fats
called triglycerides, high levels of which are linked to an increased
risk of heart disease, according to the AHA.
recommendation is to keep your total cholesterol level under
200 milligrams per deciliter of blood. But, Robertson says,
"You could have a 200 total and still have low HDL and
high LDL. It's important to know the breakdown."
count should be at least 50 milligrams per deciliter of blood,
your LDL count should be no more than 100 milligrams per deciliter,
and your triglicerides should be under 150 milligrams per deciliter,
Robertson says. If you're outside that range, you should talk
to your doctor.
Robertson recommends 30 minutes of aerobic activity four or
five times a week. "But it doesn't have to be all in one
chunk," she says. "You can break it up." For
instance, instead of taking a brisk walk for half an hour, you
can take three 10-minute walks during the day.
adds, "You can reduce the incidence of a heart attack by
40 percent by walking a mile a day."
the keys to getting more exercise regularly is to first make
simple changes in your routine. For instance, take the stairs
instead of the elevator. And then find activities you like,
such as tennis or gardening, and do them on a regular basis,
Quitting is critical because almost 30 percent of deaths from
coronary disease can be attributed to smoking, the AHA says.
And although it can be very tough to quit, the good news is
that there have never been more products to help you kick the
habit. "The new medications that help withstand those cravings
really work. So do stop-smoking programs," Robertson says.
Bertrand says, "You should keep within 5 percent of your
recommended weight." Exercise and a proper diet will help
you lose weight and keep it at a healthy level, he adds.
lifestyle changes can be difficult, Robertson acknowledges. "But
if you start thinking about yourself as a healthy person and project
yourself into the future as a healthy person, then you can look
at these changes as opportunities rather than barriers," she
To find out
your risk for heart attack or stroke, you can take this quiz designed
by the American
Heart Association. The AHA also offers a wealth of information
on how to adopt a healthier
Want to know
what your proper weight is? Use this body
mass index calculator.
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