One of the best gifts we can give our loved ones this Valentine’s Day is encouragement about living a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. About 610,000 Americans die from heart disease each year – that’s 1 in every 4 deaths. High blood pressure is the leading cause for heart disease. Almost 70% of people who have a first heart attack, 77% of people who have a first stroke, and 74% of people with chronic heart failure have high blood pressure.
But most of those deaths are preventable. According to the World Health Organization, about four out of five of the nearly 600,000 who die in this country every year from poor heart health could be saved with proper care and sensible precautions.
Smoking is a major cause of heart disease. It’s never too late to quit. The risk of a heart attack drops within two weeks.
For those who don’t smoke, avoiding those who do is important because exposure to secondhand smoke can increase the chance of developing heart disease by 30%.
The American Heart Association recommends just 30 minutes a day of moderateexercise, fives days a week. But every little bit helps. Even getting up and walking around while talking on the phone or watching TV can make a difference.
A well-balanced, nutritious diet is heart-healthy as well. Portions are 100% under our control and learning how to eat smart portions is a big part of eating healthier. Cut down on sodium. Diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds,omega-3 fatty acids and low-fat dairy products is beneficial. Limiting consumption of red meat helps reduce saturated fats that clog arteries and lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Stress is another factor. Focus on healthy outlets for stress, like taking a walk, journaling, volunteering or meditation. Getting a good night’s sleep – seven to eight hours – is also good for the heart.
There’s also a connection between dental hygiene and heart disease. Those who have gum disease often share the same risk factors as those with heart disease because the bacteria which causes gum disease can also inflame blood vessels. Daily brushing and flossing does more good health than just fight cavities.
A heart-to-heart discussion about a healthy lifestyle may be the best gift we could give our loved ones this Valentine’s Day.