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AHA offers tips to help people improve health

February 12, 2011
Submitted by Ryan Wille, community health educator for HealthLink Littauer

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S. The best tool in fighting heart disease is prevention, and the American Heart Association has provided The Simple 7 Heart Health Factors to help guide individuals, including seniors, to a healthier heart lifestyle.

1.) Get active-The AHA suggests at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise. Physical activity is anything that makes you move your body and burns calories. Aerobic exercises benefit your heart, such as walking, jogging or swimming. Strength and stretching exercise are best for overall stamina and flexibility. The easiest positive change you can make to effectively improve your heart health is to start walking. It's enjoyable, free, easy, social and great exercise.

2.) Control cholesterol-It's important for all people to know their cholesterol level. A cholesterol level of 200 mg/dl or higher puts you in a higher-risk category. To keep your cholesterol under control, the AHA recommends you schedule a screening, eat foods low in cholesterol and saturated fat and free of trans fat, maintain a healthy weight, and stay physically active.

3.) Eat better-Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables may help you control your weight and blood pressure. Unrefined whole-grain foods contain fiber that can help lower your blood cholesterol and help you feel full, which may help you manage your weight. Eat fish at least twice a week. Eating oily fish containing omega-3 fatty acids may help lower your risk of death from coronary artery disease. Choose lean meats and poultry without skin and prepare them without saturated and trans fat. Select fat-free, 1 percent fat or low-fat dairy products.

4.) Manage blood pressure-High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the single most significant risk factor for heart disease. A normal blood pressure is less than 120 mm Hg systolic and less than 80mm Hg diastolic. Eating a heart-healthy diet, enjoying regular activity, maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress, limiting alcohol and avoiding tobacco smoke will all help manage your blood pressure.

5.) Lose weight -145 million Americans are overweight or obese (BMI of 25.0 kg/m2 and higher). Obesity is a major risk factor for heart disease. You can reduce this risk by maintaining a healthy weight through fitness and a good nutrition plan. It is crucial to understand your recommended calorie intake and the amount of calories you consume verses the calories you're brining off with different levels of physical activity.

6.) Reduce blood sugar-Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke than adults without diabetes. Healthy eating habits, weight control, exercise and medication can help keep it in check. It is important to work closely with your healthcare provider to manage your diabetes.

7.) Stop smoking-By itself, smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease. When it acts with the other factors, it greatly increases your risk from those factors. Smoking decreases your tolerance for physical activity and increases the tendency for blood to clot. It decreases HDL (good) cholesterol. Smoking also creates a higher risk for peripheral artery disease and aortic aneurysm. It increases the risk of recurrent coronary heart disease after bypass surgery.

For more information, contact your health care provider, the American Heart Association at (800) 242-8721or online at www.americanheart.org, or call HealthLink Littauer at 736-1120.

People can e-mail HealthLink Littauer at healthlink@nlh.org, visit its website at www.nlh.org, or visit its wellness center at 213 Harrison St. Ext. in Johnstown, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 
 

 

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