Tuesday, March 4, 2014

You'll Know You Have a Good Heart When ...

Exercise does a body, including the heart, a world of good. Archive photos.

EXERCISE. Eat right. Extinguish those cigarettes.

Make these three simple lifestyle changes and significantly reduce the risk of developing (or worsening) cardiovascular disease (CVD), particularly heart disease, according to a noted cardiologist.

“If you smoke, you will knock off seven years of your life,” asserts Judith Mackall of Cleveland, Ohio's University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center. “And, if you have cardiovascular disease and you smoke, you’ll die 15 years sooner than you would otherwise.”

In the United States, February is American Heart Month and 29 Sept. is World Heart Day.

Though it is March, it is not too late or too early to hear and heed such good advice. And with good reason. Heart disease, one of a number of cardiovascular diseases, is the No. 1 killer of people around the world, according to the World Heart Federation. Not HIV/AIDS. Not cancer. Therefore, it cannot be stressed often enough the importance of avoiding and or reducing this killer.

Do your heart a favor and cut the cigarettes.

According to the World Heart Federation, cardiovascular disease is a broad term for a range of diseases that adversely affects the heart and blood vessels. That includes heart attack, stroke, heart failure, angina, high blood pressure and pulmonary embolism.

JM's advice is common in the cardiovascular community. It is also uncommonly palatable. So often, heart health prevention/reduction advice comes with a long to-do list that can easily discourage a body. But suggest that said body start moving by walking, for instance. Or trading in cheese sticks for carrot sticks. Or make a concerted effort to stop smoking. Well … it's easier to make a start.

And the rewards are great. Imagine embracing the by-now familiar “Five Rule,” which JM highly recommends. It's pretty straightforward. Eat at least five fruits and vegetables every day as part of a balanced diet and experience a reduction in blood pressure and decrease in inflammation in the body, preventing risk of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.

Junk food is not heart-smart.

Similarly, exercising 30 minutes a day – even if broken up in 10-minute intervals, says JM – and a body will drop pounds, high cholesterol and experience lower blood pressure. An improvement in all of these areas takes the pressure off of the heart, promoting cardiovascular health.

After mastering JM's three-prong heart health plan, a longer list such as the one recommended by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) may seem surmountable.

Recognizing that cardiovascular disease is a costly affair in the United States – more than $300 billion a year in health care costs, medication and lost productivity – the agency suggests starting slowly. The idea behind this thinking is that a body should get into a routine rather than going full throttle at the outset, then quitting in burned-out frustration after only a few weeks.

The CDC advises a cutback back in alcohol consumption, consistently monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol, managing diabetes, properly taking medicine and working with a health care team.

To inject a bit of fun in heart health, CDC threw in with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (http://www.cms.gov/) to create the Million Hearts initiative. The three-year-old plan focuses on reducing heart attacks and strokes by 2017. To that end, it encourages Americans to know their heart health ABCS and to encourage others to do so by sending ABCS e-cards (http://www.1.usa.gov/1lTUgEC).

Fruits and vegetables are heart-smart foods.

ABC, in other words:
A: Take Aspirin as directed by your health care provider.
B: Control your Blood Pressure.
C: Manage your Cholesterol.
S: Don't Smoke.

One Two Threes, then ABCS. Heartfelt advice, no?

Visit http://www.cdc.gov/features/heartmonth/ to learn more about cardiovascular health issues at the CDC; visit to learn more about World Heart Day and cardiovascular health issues at http://www.world-heart-federation.org/

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