Guest Author - Deborah Crawford
Heart disease is the number one cause of death. Cardiovascular disease is not only a killer; it’s at the top of the list. Almost one person dies every minute from heart disease. February is American Heart Month. This month, make a commitment to walking for your heart, and for your life.
More people die each year in this country (and others whose citizens have similar sedentary lifestyles) of various types of cardiovascular disease, such as coronary artery disease, heart attack, heart failure, high blood pressure and stroke than any other cause. And, if it doesn’t kill you right off, it can disable you for many years before you die.
The sad fact about these various heart diseases is that most of them are related to unhealthy lifestyles. There are some forms of cardiovascular disease that are congenital (you’re born with them) or result from other factors, such as infections. However, for the most part, cardiovascular disease is caused by an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, being overweight and smoking. Age and heredity also increase your risk. So, the older you get, the more likely you are to have heart disease, and if you have a family history of heart disease, your risk increases.
Walking can truly save your life. If you take a daily walk for your heart, you will live longer and healthier. Every hour you spend walking increases your life span by two hours. That’s a great ROI (return-on-investment)!
Here are some quick tips on protecting yourself from dying of heart disease:
--Know your own risk factors. Is your diet heart-healthy? Do you exercise enough? Are you overweight? Do you smoke, did you smoke, and are you around second-hand smoke? Do you have other diseases that may lead to heart disease, such as high blood pressure or diabetes?
--Know your numbers. Ask your doctor for your cholesterol levels – know your LDL, HDL and overall cholesterol, as well as your triglycerides. And, of course, know your blood pressure. Discuss what these numbers mean with your doctor.
--Know the signs of a heart attack and call 911 immediately. Many people wait too long, so when in doubt, call. Common symptoms include chest and/or upper body discomfort (jaw, arms, neck, back and/or stomach), shortness of breath, cold sweat, nausea, and/or lightheadedness.
--Eat better. It can be hard to change eating habits, so start with just three things: Eat smaller portions, only eat salads and grilled chicken if you visit fast food restaurants at all, and eat two servings of vegetables (not fried potatoes) at lunch and dinner. If even that is too much of a change, then just add the veggies. Then, re-educate your taste buds to enjoy real food.
--Take a walk! It is the easiest, most-recommended exercise. Start small. Work on increasing distance, time, and effort gradually. Work up to 30 minutes a day (all at once or three 10-minute sessions) of brisk walking and you will be doing your heart (and the rest of you) a huge favor. Walking (or other aerobic exercise) helps the heart work more efficiently—that is, it gets the heart muscle in shape. Additionally, it is great for strengthening your blood vessels, making them more efficient at moving blood around and getting rid of the fatty gunk that leads to blood clots and narrow arteries.
For more information on walking for your heart, consult your personal physician. With her okay, walk for your heart today and make it a lifelong habit.
To learn how and what to eat (and it’s all real food), I recommend:
One of the easiest, no-excuses ways to start a walking program is to do it in your TV room: