Feel Good Friday- A Matter of Heart
Feel Good Friday - A Matter of Heart by Hayley Bridgewater
February is here! The stores are adorned with pinks and reds, sparkled garland and cupid cutouts. We are beseeched with ads for flowers, candy, and jewelry and naturally our minds are drifting to loved ones. Though I can appreciate the sentiments brought about by St. Valentines Day, I would like to focus on a different matter of the heart. In fact, a very literal one.
February is National Heart Health Awareness Month. It is an opportunity for you and those you love to get educated, screened, and assessed for individual risk for cardiovascular disease.
While I certainly don't intend to put a damper on things, the fact remains that cardiovascular disease – which includes heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke - is the number one killer of Americans (both male and female) and heath care costs associated with cardiovascular disease are among the highest conditions on record. To drive a staggering point home, heart related illness kills more people each year than cancer, respiratory disease and accidents combined. And while we like to think that we are exempt from this worry because of age or fitness level, a great many of us have seen friends and family, young and old, fit and otherwise struck with previously undetected cardiovascular issues.
I am not trying to scare anyone. Believe me, this is the tip of the iceberg where these statistics are concerned. I am merely suggesting that what we don't know, CAN hurt us and that screening and preventative measures are a huge step in cutting individual risk. If there are numerous steps that we can be personally accountable for, why not take ownership of that responsibility?
Prevention/Screening – Regardless of familial predisposition, there are several factors that complicate and stress our cardiovascular system. By eliminating detrimental behaviors and incorporating healthy habits, we can cut risk dramatically.
Smoking – By all means, quit smoking. It is one of the top risk factors impacting heart disease and incidence of stroke. The high taxes, depressing commercials, and chronic cough are a sign! 2017 is your year to take back control of your lungs.
Eat Healthy – Diet impacts blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, which in turn, affect cardiovascular health. Choose wisely. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and fiber rich grains. Make choices low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, processed sugars and chemicals. Drink a lot of fresh water.
Keep Active – Hand in hand with a proper diet, physical activity can positively impact your cholesterol levels, lower your blood pressure, and help you maintain a healthy weight. In addition to helping condition your cardiovascular system, daily activity can give you extra energy, reduce stress and anxiety, and regulate sleeping patterns. If the prospect seems overwhelming, start small. 30 minute daily walks are a great place to start. Recruit your friends and family or beloved pet!
Curb Alcohol Use – I am surely not trying to squash your fun or suggest completely abstaining from your favorite drink. Increased alcohol consumption can negatively impact your blood pressure and keeping an eye on your intake will help manage your levels in the long term.
Know Your Numbers – It is a great idea for everyone, regardless of age or health, to have their blood pressure checked from time to time. This is the easy one. You can have this done at a clinic, medical office, even the drug store. Knowing what is baseline normal for you can alert you to any possible issues. Cholesterol levels can be checked with a simple blood test and should be done at least every 5 years. Your blood sugar numbers can be monitored in the same way. This can be crucial to your heart health if you have a family history of diabetes. Keeping an eye on these numbers in addition to knowing your healthy weight range, can put your ahead in the prevention game.
It is the hope that with education and awareness, we as a country can reverse the skyrocketing numbers of deaths due to cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association, in conjunction with numerous hospitals, medical facilities, and outreach organizations, does an incredible job of making screenings, workshops, and information accessible each February in our community.
For more information on heart health, national events, and screening opportunities, consult The American Heart Association - http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/