Keep Your Heart Healthy By Reducing Risk and Taking Control

heart handFebruary is the month of Valentine’s Day and American Heart Month.  This month is about spreading awareness for better heart health.  The key is to avoid increasing risks for coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis and high blood pressure, which can lead to a stroke or heart attack.

From the Center of Disease Control we know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Half of the deaths due to heart disease in 2006 were women. In 2010, heart disease will cost the United States $316.4 billion. This total includes the cost of health care services, medications and lost productivity.

Risk Factors for Heart Health

What can we do to help our hearts?  There are controllable and uncontrollable risk factors for heart health.

Uncontrollable Risk Factors

There are certain factors that affect heart health that we have no ability to control:

However, we do have the power to control our health.

Controllable Risk Factors

Being aware of these controllable risk factors can help us to make better choices for improved heart health and better weight control.

We know that having a normal BMI (body mass index) decreases the risk of various heart conditions. When you are in a normal weight range, your blood circulates more effectively, your fluids are maintained more appropriately and you are at lower risk for diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Weight is most readily managed by fusing a healthy diet with exercise and physical activity. Remember your heart is a muscle, too, and needs movement to keep it healthy.

Heart Healthy Diet

In general, here are some guidelines from the American Heart Association that will help keep you heart healthy:

  • Keep your total fat intake to 25 to 35 percent of the total amount of calories you consume
  • Saturated fat intake should be 7 percent or less  of total calories
  • Trans fats should also be limited to less than 1 percent of total calories
  • Consume no more than 300 mg of cholesterol per day from food
    • If you already have a heart condition, you should consume no more than 200 mg of cholesterol per day from food
  • Eat 25-30 grams of fiber from food daily
  • Consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day

Remember that a heart-healthy diet is not just about what you should avoid, but also the nutritious foods you should incorporate into your diet, such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, fiber, water and lean protein and heart-healthy fats.

Steve’s Happy Heart

I had the honor and pleasure of being a coach to one of the Biggest Losers in Detroit for this 2nd edition in 2010. My contestant, Steve Anderson, won the challenge by losing 56 pounds. Along with the lost weight, Steve had many health improvements, including his lipid bloodwork panel. Half the battle in living a healthier lifestyle is knowing your numbers and seeing your doctor regularly. This type of awareness will help guide you in what you can do to better control your health.

Check out this video, where Steve is talking about his improved heart health via his total cholesterol, HDL, LDL and triglyceride levels.

What do you do to try and keep yourself heart healthy? Share your tips for empowering yourself and controling what you can for a healthier lifestyle.

Photo Credit:  snarky_momma

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