I Heart You
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in America. So the country made February American Heart Month. The same month as Valentine’s Day, when lacy, pink hearts float through our consciousness and sweethearts adoringly exchange heart-shaped boxes of chocolate. Excuse me while I visit the waste basket. How adorable.
So I despise Valentine’s Day and pink, lacy hearts. But I love the fist-sized organ in my chest and want it to continue beating. Engage in the following seven behaviors to strengthen your heart and lower risk of heart disease
- Exercise: At least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on at least three days of the week significantly lowers risk of heart disease. Notice: at least. That means get your flabby butt off the couch exercise longer and more often to further strengthen that lovely, bloody organ.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet: Diet, as in what you eat every day, not eating only grapefruit for a week to drop weight quickly. According to the American Heart Association, we’re talking more than 4.5 cups of fruits and veggies, three 1-ounce servings of whole grain, and limiting sodium to less than 1,500 mg daily. Fewer delicious processed foods help too.
- Maintain healthy weight: Numbers 1 and 2 help with this one.
- Don’t smoke: Or chew. Or inhale second-hand smoke. Avoid tobacco all together, actually.
- Manage blood pressure: Follow all previous numbers, practice stress management, and don’t be African-American. Apparently hypertension is racist. More than 40% of African-Americans have high blood pressure, compared to only 30% of the general population.
- Control Cholesterol: Previous numbers apply (notice a pattern yet?). Also limit fat intake to less than 30% of total calories. Avoid saturated and trans fat in particular.
- Monitor blood sugar levels: High blood sugar or inability of the body to process glucose can lead to a sugary-sweet disposition prediabetes or diabetes, significantly raising risks for heart disease. Numbers 1 through 3 help regulate blood sugar.
Do you practice any of these heart-strengthening activities? Facing challenges in any of these areas? Hate Valentine’s Day as much as I do?
- Yoke, Mary M. Personal Fitness Training: Theory and Practice. Aerobics and Fitness Association of America.
- American Heart Association. 2012. American Heart Association. 7 Feb 2012. <http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/>.
Image Credit: asirap via Flicker