Heart Health

Heart HealthWhy is it that we feel love comes from the heart? Aristotle taught that the heart controlled our emotions, reason and everyday thoughts. To him loving from the brain would have felt much like loving from the kidneys would feel to us. The Egyptians also put great importance on the heart. They felt it was the vital essence of the soul, and for that that reason they weighed it against a feather after death to decide it that person was going on to paradise. Today we still have a “racing heart” when we feel emotions and for that reason the heart will be forever associated with love. Whatever the source of the belief, it is important to keep your heart healthy.

Many people find it easy to let love flow from their heart, but may struggle with blood to flow or other issues resulting in some form of heart disease. The term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions. In the United States the most common is coronary heart disease (also called coronary artery disease), which occurs when a substance called plaque builds up in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Coronary heart disease can cause heart attack, angina, heart failure, and arrhythmias.

Heart disease is a major problem. Every year, about 715,000 Americans have a heart attack. About 600,000 people die from heart disease in the United States each year. Heart disease is the number one killer of women in America. There are several factors that increase your risk for heart disease: smoking, being overweight or obese, physical inactivity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. This sounds alarming but there are several ways to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Giving up smoking is very difficult but those who smoke are six times more likely to suffer from a heart attack than those who refrain from smoking. Women who quit smoking reduce their risk of heart disease by half in just one year. There are also monetary reasons to quit smoking. A pack of cigarettes costs on average $4.80 and smoking a pack a day will cost more than $1,700.00 each year. For resources to help you quit smoking visit your healthcare provider, quitlinenc.com or smokefree.gov.

Achieving a healthy BMI is a great way to prevent or control many diseases and conditions. About two-thirds of American adults are considered overweight or obese, putting them at a higher risk for heart disease. BMI (Body Mass Index) is calculated based on your height and weight. Ask your health care provider what your BMI is or visit a BMI calculator on-line like the one provided by Eat Smart Move More North Carolina at myeatsmartmovemore.com/BMI. A normal BMI is 18.5-24.9, 25-29.9 is considered overweight, and above 30 is obese. There are several ways to lower BMI. Eating the proper portion size is most important to maintaining a healthy weight. Visit myeatsmartmovemore.com/RightSize to learn more about portion control. Also monitor calories in (calories in food eaten) vs. calories out (calories expended through exercise).

Being physically active has many benefits. Regular physical activity can lower your BMI, and reduce risk of high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Physically inactive people are twice as likely to develop heart disease as those who are active. There are however many barriers to being physically active; the most common is time. It may be hard to find time to train for a marathon, but finding 30 minutes for some type of moderate-intensity aerobic activity may be a little easier. Those 30 minutes can be broken down even further into 10 minutes, 3 times a day. Aerobic activity should be done no less than 10 minute increments. Moderate-intensity aerobic activity means that you can talk, but not sing and would include walking briskly, general gardening, or biking on level ground.

Lowering cholesterol, a fat-like substance in the blood that builds up in the walls of arteries, will also decrease the risk of heart disease. There are three types of cholesterol, LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein), HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein), and Triglycerides. LDL is often referred to as the “bad cholesterol” and deposits into the artery walls. HDL is often called the “good cholesterol” and helps to remove cholesterol from artery walls. Triglycerides are the most common form of fat in the body. Total cholesterol levels should be less than 200 mg/dl. Cholesterol can be lowered by regular physical activity and a diet low in saturated-fat and cholesterol. Visit your healthcare provider to have your cholesterol levels tested.

Lowering blood pressure, the force of blood against the walls of arteries, will lower the risk of heart disease. High blood pressure (Hypertension) is very dangerous because it has no symptoms. A blood pressure reading consists of two numbers. The top number is called systolic and is the amount of pressure blood applies to the artery walls when the heart beats. The bottom number is the pressure in between beats, called diastolic. For normal blood pressure systolic should read less than 120 and diastolic less than 80. To prevent high blood pressure consume less than 1 teaspoon (2,300 mg) of sodium a day in added salt, as well as salt in packaged foods.

For the sake of those you love keep your heart healthy by following these simple tips.  Also check out the heart health podcasts .For more information on heart health contact Olivia Jones at 252-232-2261, or e-mail at Olivia_jones@ncsu.edu.

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