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Fight heart disease with the American Heart Association's Life Simple 7 plan

1/20/2017, 6 a.m.
Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans. Every year, nearly one of every three deaths in the United ...
Regular physical activity can lower blood pressure, keep body weight under control and help lower “bad” cholesterol as well as build strength and stamina. Photo by Curtis Parker

Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans.

Every year, nearly one of every three deaths in the United States is from cardiovascular disease.

Protect yourself from, and fight heart disease with the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7.

Get active

nYou don’t have to join a gym or run in a 5K. Start small by incorporating physical activity into your daily routine more and more. Along with gaining strength and stamina, regular physical activity can lower blood pressure, keep body weight under control and lower your LDL or “bad” cholesterol.

Regular physical activity is also associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes, reduced depression, improved bone density, and improved sleep quality for adults.

It’s easy to start. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park at the farthest end of the parking lot or use your lunch break to take a quick walk.

For a healthy heart, aim for at least 2 ½ hours of moderate physical activity weekly.

Control cholesterol

Cholesterol, a waxy substance in the bloodstream and in the cells of our body, plays an important role in keeping us healthy. There are two types of cholesterol – the “good” kind (HDL) and the “bad” kind (LDL). High levels of bad cholesterol can clog your arteries, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. Good cholesterol, HDL, cleans out the bad cholesterol from the arteries.

Build good cholesterol with regular physical activity, limit saturated fat by reducing red meats, choosing low-fat dairy, healthier fats such as olive and certain vegetable oils, and avoiding trans fats. For some people, diet and lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough. Your doctor may prescribe cholesterol-lowering medication to keep your cholesterol levels in check.

Eat better

Eating the right foods can help you control your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. Follow DASH eating plan that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other healthy choices.

Look for heart-healthy foods stamped with the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check mark.

Manage blood pressure.

About 40 percent of African Americans have high blood pressure — yet about 14% of adults 60 years and older don’t even know they have it. That’s because high blood pressure, “the silent killer,” has no symptoms. Keeping your blood pressure in a healthy range starts with eating a heart-healthy diet. Other important factors are exercising regularly; maintaining a healthy weight; limiting salt and alcohol; and taking medication prescribed by your doctor.

Maintain a healthy weight.

Overweight and obesity are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. In the US, 69 percent of adults are either overweight or obese. Higher body mass index (BMI) is associated with higher risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity is a strong predictor of sleep disordered breathing.

For overweight or obese adults with other cardiovascular risk factors (such as high blood pressure), maintaining a weight loss of 3-5 percent of body weight can produce clinically meaningful results. Greater weight loss can produce even greater results on blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar.

Reduce blood sugar

Diabetes is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Heart disease death rates among adults with diabetes are 2 to 4 times higher than adults without diabetes. You can minimize the impact of diabetes on your body — and even prevent or delay the onset of diabetes — by eating right, controlling your weight, exercising and taking medication prescribed by your doctor. In some cases, lifestyle changes result in less need for medication.

Stop smoking

It’s time to kick the habit. Going smoke-free can help reduce risk of heart disease and stroke, but also cancer and chronic lung disease. The payoff is almost immediate. Quit smoking and you’ll lower your excess risk of developing heart disease and stroke within only a few years.

For more information, visit www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/

What is BMI

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight of adult men and women.

If your BMI is... You are...

Below 18.5... Underweight

18.5-24.9... Normal

25.0-29.9... Overweight

30.0 and Above... Obese

Calculate your BMI at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm