February is American Heart Month
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, but heart disease is preventable and controllable. The Health Center of Helping Hands would like to share some information on keeping your heart healthy….
Maintaining good cardiovascular health boils down to doing seven things (notice I didn’t say seven “simple” things): not smoking; being physically active; maintaining normal blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol levels; staying at a normal weight; and eating a healthful diet.
A study by the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that hardly any of us – only 1.2 percent – can check off all seven items on our cardio-health checklist. And 8.8 percent of us failed to achieve more than one. Cardiovascular disease is now the No. 1 cause of mortality in the United States, accounting for about 800,000 deaths a year.
The trends that the research detected aren’t encouraging: While the percentage of people who were current smokers dropped from about 28 percent to about 23 percent over the study period, the prevalence of people with “desirable” cholesterol levels and blood pressure didn’t change much at all. The other trends changed for the worse, with healthy diet, normal BMI and normal blood glucose levels all declining.
The American Council on Exercise recommends older Americans choose exercise programs that include cardiovascular, muscle conditioning and flexibility exercises. Low-impact, non-jarring exercises such as walking and swimming are good options. A key to sticking with a fitness program is making sure it’s enjoyable.
Whenever beginning a new fitness activity or program, make sure you do it safely.
- Wear comfortable shoes that fit well.
- Stay hydrated with plenty of fluids.
- Listen to your body. If it hurts or it feels like too much, stop.
You also need to be aware of danger signs while exercising. Stop the activity and call your doctor or 911 if you experience pain or pressure in your chest, arms, neck or jaw; feel lightheaded, nauseated or weak; become short of breath; develop pain in your legs, calves or back; or feel like your heart is beating too fast or skipping beats.
It’s important to see your doctor before beginning any workout routine to receive a thorough cardiovascular evaluation. Once you’ve been cleared by your doctor, the recommendation is to start out slowly.