Happy Healthy Heart

“Heart disease and stroke is the world’s largest killer, claiming 17.5 million lives each year,” according to the World Heart Federation. They state: “That’s why World Heart Day was created, to create public awareness of risk factors for heart disease and stroke and to promote preventive measures.” And this year World Heart Day is celebrated on Sunday September 30 with a theme entitled “Team Up for Healthy Hearts.” What a great cause!

You know we’re all affected by disease and I bet if you thought long and hard enough you could think of someone you know who suffers from heart disease. It certainly hits home for me. In fact, it recently affected my father in a major way. Let me explain. My dad is truly amazing. He’s seventy-four years young and is one of the most active men I’ve ever known. All his life he’s worked hard and been physically active. Maybe he’s never gone to the gym to pump iron, but after an entire day’s work of farming and landscaping I don’t think he really needed to clock time in at the gym! Even now he hasn’t slowed down. He still works three jobs! Isn’t that incredible? He puts me to shame and I’m over forty years younger than he. He’s the picture of health concerning his diet and lifestyle. He doesn’t smoke or drink. He’s a vegan and all of his meals include lots of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. If we all took such good care of ourselves the world would be a healthier place.

But, sometimes no matter how hard we try to have a healthy lifestyle, we can’t run away from our genetic makeup. And this July that’s exactly what happened to my dad. His family genes finally caught up with him and had a serious effect on his life. You see, my dad comes from a family with a history of heart disease that affects the males of the family. High blood pressure and cholesterol along with coronary artery disease seem to be the big culprits. Well, to make a very long story short, my dad went into the hospital one morning to have a routine heart cath due to some abdominal discomforts. After the procedure was completed, he was immediately admitted to the hospital. The doctors said “He was a walking heart attack.” You can only imagine the terror that streamed through our family! A few days later he had a triple bypass. And all this time we all thought he had indigestion. I’m a nurse, and I even missed that one. That’s why I don’t give medical advice to my family because it’s so easy to get blindsided.

Thankfully, today my dad is recovered and doing fantastic. In fact, the heart surgeon told my mom after my dad’s surgery that his heart and body tissues we’re extremely healthy. He said that they looked like the body tissue of a seventeen-year-old and that my dad could easily live to be 100. My mom, being quick witted replied, “In that case, I think you better take me into the operating room and do me next!” And just a little family fact: my mom is twenty years younger than my dad!

A scary fact is that according to Wikipedia, “As of 2007 heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.” And it isn’t just affecting men, it’s affecting women too. It’s so important for us to stay “Heart Healthy.” So, here are some simple ways to prevent heart disease taken from the Centers for Disease Control.

Prevent and control high blood cholesterol
High blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease. Preventing and treating high blood cholesterol includes eating a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber, keeping a healthy weight, and getting regular exercise. All adults should have their cholesterol levels checked once every five years. If yours is high, your doctor may prescribe medicines to help lower it.

Prevent and control high blood pressure
Lifestyle actions such as healthy diet, regular physical activity, not smoking, and healthy weight will help you to keep normal blood pressure levels, and all adults should have their blood pressure checked on a regular basis. Blood pressure is easily checked. If your blood pressure is high, you can work with your doctor to treat it and bring it down to the normal range. A high blood pressure can usually be controlled with lifestyle changes and with medicines when needed.

Prevent and control diabetes
People with diabetes have an increased risk of heart disease but can reduce their risk. Also, people can take steps to reduce their risk for diabetes in the first place, through weight loss and regular physical activity.

No tobacco
Smoking increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Never smoking is one of the best things a person can do to lower their risk. And, quitting smoking will also help lower a person’s risk of heart disease. A person’s risk of heart attack decreases soon after quitting. If you smoke, your doctor can suggest programs to help you quit smoking.

Maintain a healthy weight
Healthy weight status in adults is usually assessed by using weight and height to compute a number called the “body mass index” (BMI). BMI usually indicates the amount of body fat. An adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. Overweight is a BMI between 25 and 29.9. Normal weight is a BMI of 18 to 24.9. Proper diet and regular physical activity can help to maintain a healthy weight.

Regular physical activity
Adults should engage in moderate level physical activities for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.

Diet and nutrition
Along with healthy weight and regular physical activity, an overall healthy diet can help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and prevent obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. This includes eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, lowering or cutting out added salt or sodium, and eating less saturated fat and cholesterol to lower these risks.

So, now it’s up to you. Start making smart choices and prevent today what could cause your heart damage tomorrow. I think we all deserve a happy, healthy heart. Don’t you?