Take care of your heart
By Clint Farr For the Capital City Weekly
February is American Heart Month, a good time to remind ourselves that heart disease isn't inevitable.
Despite great strides in treatment and care, heart disease kills more Americans than any other cause of death. Although death is inevitable, wouldn't it be great if we could spare ourselves the debilitation, the infirmity and the costs of heart disease?
In theory, avoiding heart disease is easy. Get your heart rate up, eat well, limit alcohol and completely avoid tobacco. Studies show that simply walking for 30 minutes a day is one of the healthiest activities you can do. Just walk in one direction for 15 minutes and turn around.
Yet in reality, avoiding heart disease is difficult. Microwaving prepackaged foods loaded with fat and salt is easier than cooking from scratch with fresh ingredients. Dodging dangerous birds in a video game is easier than dodging aggressive ravens on a neighborhood run. Assuming everything is fine is easier than scheduling a cholesterol and blood pressure check.
Some easy activities that can get you on the road to a healthier heart include:
- Walking twice a day for 15 minutes, or three times a day for 10 minutes. (The point here is to get a daily walking total of 30 minutes.)
- Parking your car a little farther from the door.
- Taking the stairs.
- Using smaller plates and bowls to encourage smaller portions.
- Eating colorful fruits and vegetables instead of packaged foods.
- Walking your dog (or cat). Walking your neighbor's dog (or cat).
- Doing jumping jacks or sit-ups during television time, or running up the stairs, jogging in place or stretching during commercials.
Success breeds success. Once you've successfully made one small change, the next small change will be easier. Track your successes. Use gold stars on a chart, a spreadsheet or a notebook to document your progress. Seeing how far you've come will motivate you, and your friends and family, to continue improving their heart health.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has come up with an easy mnemonic to help us remember how to prevent or control heart disease. Simply follow the ABCS.
- Aspirin therapy for those who need it
- Blood pressure control
- Cholesterol management
- Smoking cessation
Schedule some time with your health care provider to learn your cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and whether aspirin therapy is right for you.
For more information and tips for a healthy heart, visit www.millionhearts.hhs.gov.
Clint Farr is a public health specialist with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Public Health.