Go Red For Heart Health!
Happy Go Red Day ladies – today is National Wear Red Day. It’s the first friday every February where women come together and wear red to show their support for women’s heart health and to help each other remember the importance of heart health. The campaign began back in 2003, when cardiovascular disease killed over 500,000 American women(4). One of the all time highest death tolls from heart disease in years. And at that time, women just weren’t paying attention to the signs and symptoms of this deadly disease and obviously suffered the consequences. So to bring new awareness and attention to this growing issue, the American Heart Association along with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute began sponsoring the Wear Red Day campaign to support women’s heart health.
Thanks to the Wear Red Campaign, many women and men have decreased their risk of heart disease and become aware of the signs and symptoms. But even after we’ve come this far in the treatment and care for people with heart disease, the number of people it affects is still staggering. “About 600,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths. Every year about 935,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 610,000 are a first heart attack and 325,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack. Coronary heart disease alone costs the United States $108.9 billion in healthcare costs” (1). When you see the numbers, you know that America still has a long way to go.
Many people, especially in the younger generations, aren’t really aware of what heart disease is and how you can prevent it. So here’s a quick health lesson: Heart disease is known by many names including coronary artery disease or coronary heart disease. But in general, these terms all refer to the slow build up of plaque in the coronary arteries (the blood vessels that bring oxygenated blood to feed your heart). After many years of this buildup, atherosclerosis develops – that’s the narrowing of the arteries from the plaque build up. Sometimes this continues until the arteries are completely blocked resulting in a heart attack. Other times this plaque can break off into chunks causing a blood clot (2). Neither of these two situations is good. So I’ve listed out some important risk factors followed by the even MORE important prevention methods.
- Increased age (82% of people who die from heart disease are older than 65)
- High cholesterol
- aim for under 200 mg/dL total cholesterol
- HDL (good) Cholesterol: 40 mg/dL or higher for men and 50 mg/dL or higher for women
- High Blood Pressure – increased blood pressure makes your heart work a lot harder. Like any muscle, this makes the heart walls thicker and prevents it from working normally.
- Physical Inactivity
- Obesity and Overweight – excess weight, especially around your mid section, increases your risk for heart disease. In addition, this extra weight increases the work load of your heart, increases blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, in addition to increasing your risk for diabetes.
- Diabetes – 65% of people with diabetes die of some form of heart or blood vessel disease. Even if your blood sugars are under control, having this disease increases your risk of heart disease (4).
- Alcohol consumption, smoking and stress all play a factor in your risk for heart disease – so keep this at a minimum…or don’t at all.
Although the risks sound scary and include many people, there is plenty of research and studies showing multiple ways to decrease your overall risk for developing heart disease. Diet and lifestyle choices are the top areas where we can all make changes and see the impacts on our health. It’s important to try to incorporate as many of these changes as possible. Not only do these decrease your risk for heart disease, but they can help you maintain a healthy life for a long time…and thats what we want, right?
- Being physically active. Try for 30 minutes 5-6/days a week. Even a short walk counts!
- Decreasing stress levels. Deep breathing, meditation and listening to music can help you calm down and relax.
- Weight management. Physical activity and a healthy diet help you manage weight.
- Eating healthy fats. Try olive oil, salmon, avocado and walnuts. These are all great sources of heart healthy fats!
- Stop smoking. This one is self explanatory.
- Manage blood pressure. Limiting salt can help lower your blood pressure – so set that salt shaker down!
- Take charge of your cholesterol. Limiting fatty meats, full fat dairy products and increasing your fiber intake can help lower cholesterol!
Adopting any of the above practices may help you reduce your risk for heart disease. It’s important – we all have to work on this! Let’s help the American Heart Association with their new goal: “By 2020, to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent.” Are you ready?
What are some ways you’re trying to improve your own heart health? Have you tried heart-healthy recipes? Gotten in more physical activity? Let me know and lets share our tips and tricks for improving our heart health!