February is Heart Health Month: Love your heart!

Some Sobering Statistics About American Heart Health

Did you know that 610,000 Americans have a first stroke every year and another 525,000 have a first heart attack?

One in three Americans die of a cardiovascular disease.

One in three U.S. adults is obese.

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults have high or elevated blood pressure.

The average American adult consumes about 3,600 milligrams of sodium a day.

Earlier this year, the American Heart Association (AHA) and American College of Cardiology (ACC) published new guidelines to address the cardiovascular risks associated with American lifestyles. In this publication, the groups recommended doctors should consider obesity a disease and more actively treat obese patients for weight loss.

Reducing risks and preventing heart disease and stroke is the purpose of new recommendations.

See your doctor to complete a risk assessment, which focuses on using an updated equation to evaluate risks associated with race, gender, age, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, blood pressure, use of blood pressure medication, diabetes status and smoking status. Your doctor will evaluate your specific risks and make recommendations specific for your needs.

Recommendations that everyone can follow to reduce risk for heart disease include:

Cutting out processed foods high in sodium and cooking at home more often with the goal to cut down salt to 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day.

To lower cholesterol, the new guidelines recommend reducing saturated fat to no more than 5 to 6 percent of total calories. For someone eating 2,000 calories a day – the average of what an adult eats each day – that’s about 13 grams of saturated fat.

The recommended diet should focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish and nuts. It also limits eating red meat and sugary foods and beverages.

The new guidelines also call for people to avoid trans fats – which shouldn’t be as hard after the Food and Drug Administration announced in November that it intends to ban trans fats in processed foods. Trans fats are currently found in many fried foods and baked goods such as pastries, pizza dough, pie crust, cookies and crackers.

Being physically active is important to prevent heart disease and stroke. Just 40 minutes of aerobic exercise of moderate to vigorous intensity done three to four times a week is enough to stay healthy. Brisk walking, swimming, bicycling or a dance class are fun choices. If a person has not been exercising, focus on walking 20-25 minutes a day and gradually increase exercise as your body adjusts to the activity.

If the recommended lifestyle changes and lower body weight does not have a positive effect on your cholesterol and blood pressure, your doctor may recommend medication to help lower them. Ultimately, reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack with positive health changes will improve your life and allow for more better quality of living every day. Isn’t this ultimately what we all want?

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