The month of February brings to mind many images of hearts. However, the most important heart is your own! February has been designated by Congress as American Heart Month, and with good reason. The heart-disease statistics identified by the Center for Disease control are shocking!
Heart disease facts:
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. More than half of the deaths due to heart disease in 2015 were in men.
- About 630,000 Americans die from heart disease each year—that’s one in every four deaths.
- Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing about 366,000 people in 2015.
- In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds. Each minute, more than one person in the United States dies from a heart-disease-related event.
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death for people of most racial/ethnic groups in the United States, including African Americans, Hispanics, and whites. For Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders and American Indians or Alaska Natives, heart disease is second only to cancer.
- Heart disease costs the United States about $200 billion each year. This total includes the cost of healthcare services, medications, and lost productivity.
High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. About half of Americans (49%) have at least one of these three risk factors.
Several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease, including:
- Overweight and obesity
- Poor diet
- Physical inactivity
- Excessive alcohol use.
These statistics and risk factors are alarming, but there is some good news. Each of us can decrease our chances of heart disease. It is a doable process that can be fun, inexpensive, and, most of all, lifesaving.
With all this focus on the heart, we at Heartland Rehabilitation would like to provide you with a few simple steps you can take to develop a healthier heart.
From a nutritional standpoint, making a few simple changes and healthier substitutions to your regular diet will make it more heart-friendly. They include:
- Limit intake of hydrogenated oils that can be found in fast food, margarine, or fried foods.
- Use extra virgin olive oil and garlic when cooking.
- Instead of shortening or butter for baking, use applesauce for half of the butter amount. You may need to decrease baking time by 25%.
- Use low-fat or fat-free versions of milk, sour cream, or cream cheese in a recipe.
- Reduce sugar by 1/4 to 1/3 in baked goods. Cinnamon, vanilla, or almond extract can be used to increase sweetness.
- To increase fiber intake, replace regular grains with whole grains or whole-wheat flour.
- Eat the darker green or leafier lettuces as opposed to iceberg lettuce for more fiber.
Regular exercise is another key for a healthier heart. Here are some simple guidelines for beneficial exercise:
- Try to exercise three to four times a week for at least 30 minutes.
- A combination of cardio (walking, treadmill, etc.) and resistance exercise is beneficial.
- Remain consistent, start out slowly, and progress your exercise program as tolerated.
- Remember to stretch before and after exercise.
- Keep hydrated and rest between sets.
- Consult a physician prior to beginning any exercise program.
- Consult a physical therapist for an individualized exercise program or to treat any injuries you may have.
If you have already thought about making changes to a heart-healthier lifestyle in 2018, are you still on track? A statistic from a “big box” gym identified that the most drastic drop off in gym attendance occurs 38 days from the New Year (February 7th). We all begin the year with high hopes and big goals for our health and fitness. But only 30 days into the year, only six out of ten people are still on track with their goal to lose weight, exercise more, or eat healthy. By the end of the year, only one out of ten people have sustained their New Year’s resolution to be healthier.
The key to succeeding is to start and continue with small, manageable tasks that are within your control, that you can do now, today, or in the near future. Things that you can do consistently and regularly are key. When we take the outcomes we want and frame them into behaviors we control, we will be more successful.❦