“Life’s Simple 7” Can Help You Set Small, Simple Goals
Like many Americans, you made a pledge to get healthier this New Year. You found your sneakers and dusted off the treadmill you found under your laundry pile. Your yoga pants are no longer just a fashion choice—they are ready to do actual yoga. Now you’ve got to find the time in your day–30 minutes minimum for heart health–to get physically active. You’re off to a great start to help prevent heart disease, the number one killer of American men and women.
It may not be at the top of most to-do lists, but caring for your heart through a healthy diet and regular physical activity is the secret weapon to preventing heart disease. The real preventative power lies with real changes to your lifestyle like eating healthily and exercising often.
More than one in three adults has some form of cardiovascular disease. According to the American Heart Association, 80 percent of heart disease and stroke can be prevented. And prevention can be as simple as making the healthy choice most of the time.
“The American Heart Association wants you to make the healthy choice the default choice. So when it comes to taking the elevator or stairs, you take the stairs. If you have a choice of sugary soft drink or water, you choose water. If you have a choice between a side of fries or a side salad, you pick salad,” said Dr. Jonathan Eddinger FACC, non-invasive cardiologist, Catholic Medical Center.
“Treatment and research advances in cardiac care can save many lives, but we can save many more lives through prevention. There are simple things everyone can do to lower their risk of the number one and five killers—heart disease and stroke,” said Dr. Eddinger.
The AHA’s “Life’s Simple 7” heart risk assessment and customized action plan tool can help get you started as part of your New Year’s resolution to be healthy. Access this free tool at www.mylifecheck.org.
You don’t have to join a gym or run in a 5K. Start small by incorporating physical activity into your daily routine like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, park at the farthest end of the parking lot or use your lunch break to take a quick walk.
“Exercise is the single most important thing you can do to improve your overall health. The goal is at least 30 minutes of brisk exercise daily,” said Dr. Eddinger. Along with gaining strength and stamina, exercising regularly can lower blood pressure, keep body weight and blood sugar under control and increase your HDL, the “good” cholesterol.
Keep Blood Pressure and Cholesterol in check.
High levels of LDL, the “bad” cholesterol can clog your arteries, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. HDL helps clean out that bad cholesterol from the arteries. Improve your cholesterol by exercising regularly and limiting saturated fat and cholesterol. Limit red meats, full-fat dairy and processed foods with trans fats.
One in three Americans have high blood pressure. Get it checked routinely since it has no outward symptoms. Reducing sodium, losing weight and exercising can help manage blood pressure, as well as blood pressure-lowering medicines.
Aim to fill half of your plate with healthy fruits and vegetables, and then fill in the rest with lean protein and whole grains. Go easy on added fats, sugar and salt.
The AHA also recommends consuming fish twice a week, like salmon. Dieting isn’t the goal–long-term healthier dietary choices are.
More than 60% of Americans are overweight or obese. The AHA recommends starting by knowing your healthy weight range and aim to get there in small increments. You can shed 24 pounds a year by dropping just 2 pounds a month, and losing as few as 10 pounds decreases your heart disease risk.
Use an online calorie calculator to know how many calories you should consume to maintain a healthy weight. Then start enjoying plenty of fiber and nutrient rich fruits and vegetables, adding lean proteins and whole grains. Slowly increase your aerobic physical activity each week while reducing the calories you take in.
Reduce Blood Sugar
Diabetes can quadruple your risk of heart disease or stroke, Manage or prevent diabetes by eating right, controlling your weight, exercising and taking medication prescribed your doctor.
With one in five deaths caused by smoking, going smoke-free can help prevent not only heart disease and stroke, but also cancer and chronic lung disease. Visit nysmokefree.com for resources.
“Without your health, everything else comes grinding to a halt,” Dr. Eddinger said, “Heart health should really be on top of your list of priorities.”
Visit www.mylifecheck.org for more information and a free heart health action plan.
The American Heart Association is proud to team up with Catholic Medical Center as the unprecedented Life is Why Sponsor in New Hampshire, one of only a few sponsorships of its kind in the nation. Life is Why is a national brand which emphasizes the emotional connection to the work of the American Heart Association. The campaign encourages people of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds to consider what or who they are living for and turn that into their personal motivation for making small changes in their lifestyles, adding up to healthier, happier and longer lives. For more information, visit: www.heart.org/LifeIsWhyNH.
Our mission is to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. For nearly 100 years, we’ve been fighting heart disease and stroke, striving to save and improve lives. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer worldwide, and stroke ranks second globally. Even when those conditions don’t result in death, they cause disability and diminish quality of life. We want to see a world free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.