Eat right, live well
94 percent of adult Americans have ‘poor’ heart health
By Julie Hudson
February has been named American Heart Month since 1963. Not because of Valentine’s Day, but rather to raise public awareness about heart disease.
Heart disease is a broad word that describes diseases that affect your heart. These diseases can affect your blood vessels and heart rhythm, lead to heart infections or be a result of birth defects. Cardiovascular Disease is a term that we use interchangeably with heart disease. This term usually means a condition that affects blood vessels and can lead to heart attack, stroke or chest pain. Conditions like heart infections – or those that affect your valves, heart muscle or beating rhythm – are considered forms of heart disease.
Interestingly enough, heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, accounting for more than one-third of all deaths. We usually link heart disease to men. However, it is the No. 1 cause of death in women.
The American Heart Association reports that 94 percent of adults would score a “poor” rating when looking at heart heath risk factors such as weight, physical activity, diet, cholesterol and other lipid levels, blood pressure sugar levels and tobacco use.
Why is this? What is happening? The American Heart Association reports astonishing statistics such as obesity being a huge risk factor for heart disease with 67 percent of adults and 32 percent of children in the United States diagnosed as clinically overweight or obese. These numbers continue to rise and statistics show that the increase in calorie consumption comes predominantly from unhealthy foods and large portion sizes.
To top it off, the American Heart Association reports that 33 percent of adults do not make physical activity a regular part of their lives, and definitely don’t meet the recommended 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Many professionals agree that this increase in poor nutrition, combined with a sedentary lifestyle, is setting us up for a disaster.
How can we fix the problem? Well it’s easy to say – and certainly nothing that we have not heard before – but there needs to be a commitment. Like a job or anything else that is important, we need to be dedicated. It is important to keep in mind that there are many risk factors that we cannot control or change, such as race, gender, heredity and age.
The dedication comes into play when we work to reduce the risk factors that we can change. This list starts with consuming a healthy diet: consuming only “good fats” in moderation; limiting sugar and salt; increasing whole grains, fresh produce and low-fat dairy products; choosing lean meats; including fish; and watching your portions.
In addition to eating a healthy diet, we should strive to achieve normal blood pressure, normal sugar levels and normal lipid levels. We should also strive to avoid tobacco use, maintain an ideal body weight and make physical activity a regular part of our daily routine – or at least most days.
Looking at all the preventable risks and how to improve our health can become daunting. Don’t let it overwhelm you, because most of the time correcting one risk factor can benefit another risk factor. For example, improving our diet to include only “good fats,” whole grains, fresh produce, low fat dairy products and lean meats will in turn improve our lipid levels and probably provide some weight loss which in turn improves your blood pressure. This is only one example of how small changes can be so beneficial.
The good news is that heart disease is 80 percent preventable. We need to take this information and run with it. We need to make the commitment to healthy eating and make exercise a regular part of our lifestyle. We need to find healthy food that tastes good and exercises we enjoy.
We need to strive to new levels in 2012. We need to make healthy living a regular part of our life – not just when we feel like it.
It’s nothing new! We have discussed all of these recommendations before, but it does help to reinforce them occasionally. That’s why I repeat myself a lot. Sometimes we are not ready to hear information. Like I said, it is a huge commitment, but in the end we will be so much healthier.
I think everyone needs to enjoy Valentine’s Day. If you really want to show your valentine you love him or her, red wine and dark chocolate is the way to go.
Red wine has been shown to improve HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) and dark chocolate with a cocoa content of at least 70 percent has been found to lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). It not only says “I love you,” but you are truly taking care of their heart.
Julie Hudson is a dietician at Lake Martin Wellness Center in Dadeville.