Managing the Risk of Heart Disease- February is American Heart Month
Posted Feb 10 2012 3:05am
February is American Heart Month-
A Time to Look at Managing the Risk of Heart Disease
While diet and exercise can lower your risk of heart disease it is also important to understand heart health risk factors and what to do to control them. Risk factors are conditions or habits that make it more likely to develop a disease or increase the chances that an existing disease will get worse.
Eating a heart-healthy diet should consist of a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. Eliminating saturated fat, and trans-fat, as well as reducing salt and processed sugars are heart healthy diet choices.
Exercise and physical activity are also important to reduce your risk of heart disease. “At least 2 ½ hours a week of moderate-intensity physical activity can lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, hypertension and diabetes—a winner on multiple counts,” says Dr. Diane Bild, a cardiovascular epidemiologist at the National Institutes of Health.
Important heart health risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, excess weight and physical inactivity can be controlled. Your heart risk factors for high cholesterol and high blood pressure should be tested by a health care provider to measure your blood cholesterol and blood pressure. Blood tests show your cholesterol levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol and HDL “good” cholesterol. Blood pressure is always reported as 2 numbers, and any numbers above 120/80 mmHg raise your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Even a small weight loss of 5% to 10% of your current weight can help lower your health risk factor. There are tools available to help you aim for a healthy weight, including physical activity tips and a menu planner at the National Institutes of Health website at: http://healthyweight.nhlbi.nih.gov/.
To determine if y our weight is within a healthy range, take your height and divide it in half. Your waistline should not be greater than this number. For example someone that is 6 feet tall (72 inches) should not have a waistline that is greater than 36 inches. A guideline that states this measurement in terms of men and women uses 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women, taking into consideration the difference in body types. A tool to calculate Body Mass Index or BMI can also be used to determine your weight in terms of health risk. A BMI between 25 and 29.9 means that you are overweight, while a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. A tool to calculate your BMI can be found at:www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/bmicalc.htm
In addition to controlling the health risk factors, a physician should be consulted to help you with diet, exercise and be alerted if any unusual symptoms occur. Common symptoms that need to be checked by a doctor include shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, fatigue, chest pain, shoulders, arms, neck, jaw or back pain.