Take care of your heart with these seven rules to live by.
We all know that exercise is good for us, but nearly 70% of Americans do not get the physical activity they need. Living an active life is one of the most rewarding gifts you can give yourself and those you love. Simply put, daily physical activity increases your length and quality of life. If you get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day (like brisk walking), five times per week, you can almost guarantee yourself a healthier and more satisfying life while lowering your risks for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Parents, your children need 60 minutes a day–every day–so when you get active, you’re also modeling healthy living for the next generation.
Reduce Blood Sugar.
If your fasting blood sugar level is below 100, you are in the healthy range. If not, your results could indicate diabetes or pre-diabetes. Diabetes can cause your blood sugar to rise to dangerous levels, and when this happens, your body may try to compensate by draining fluid out of your cells to dilute the excessive sugar, creating excessive thirst and hydration problems. Over time, high levels of blood sugar can damage your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves.
When you control your cholesterol, you are giving your arteries their best chance to remain clear of blockages. Cholesterol is a waxy substance and our bodies use it to make cell membranes and some hormones, but when you have too much bad cholesterol (LDL), it combines with white blood cells and forms plaque in your veins and arteries. These blockages lead to heart disease and stroke. If your cholesterol is 200 mg/dL or higher, you need to take action. High cholesterol can cause blocked arteries, and like a multi-car pile-up, one problem often creates another. Lowering your cholesterol helps your whole body get adequate blood supply and keeps your circulatory organs functioning well.
A healthy diet is one of your best weapons for fighting cardiovascular disease. When you eat a heart-healthy diet (foods low in saturated and trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars, and foods high in whole grain fiber, lean protein, and a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables) you improve your chances for feeling good and staying healthy–for life! However, an alarmingly high number of us are not making healthy food choices. Recent studies show that more than 90% of us fail to consistently eat a heart-healthy diet. Our poor eating habits mean more of us have risk factors for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity.
If you have too much fat — especially if a lot of it is at your waist— you’re at higher risk for such health problems as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes. And you’re not alone! More than 2/3 of our American adult population is overweight, with 1/3 of us in the obese category. These statistics are especially concerning since obesity is now recognized as a major, independent risk factor for heart disease.
Your BMI: Body mass index (BMI) assesses your body weight relative to height. It’s a useful, indirect measure of body composition because it correlates highly with body fat in most people. If your body mass index is 25.0 or higher, you will benefit by bringing your number down below 25. If your BMI is 30.0 or higher, you are at significant risk for heart health problems.
Manage Blood Pressure.
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. When your blood pressure stays within healthy ranges, you reduce the strain on your heart, arteries, and kidneys which keeps you healthier longer. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, means the blood running through your arteries flows with too much force and puts pressure on your arteries, stretching them past their healthy limit and causing microscopic tears. Our body then kicks into injury-healing mode to repair these tears with scar tissue. But unfortunately, the scar tissue traps plaque and white blood cells which can form into blockages, bloodclots, and hardened, weakened arteries.
Cigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health. Smoking is one of our nation’s top causes of early death, but your lungs can begin to heal as soon as you quit. So, if you find yourself reaching for a cigarette when you’re stressed or anxious, it’s urgent that you realize the cost: over your lifetime, smoking will only add to your stress by taking away your good health. Whatever satisfaction you get from smoking is going to be somewhat short-lived; cigarettes will shorten your life.
For more information go to goredforwomen.org