“Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States.
Almost two-thirds of the women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms.
In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 34 seconds.”
- CDC Fact Sheet
February is National Heart Month.
Today Friday, February 3 is National Wear Red Day.
Is cardiovascular disease the same thing?
Cardiovascular disease is used interchangeably with heart disease. The difference is that heart disease is the broad term for many afflictions of the heart and cardiovascular disease refers to afflictions of the vessels in the heart.
Heart disease, sometimes referred to cardiovascular disease, is one of those topics that is near and dear to my…well my heart.
I have a sister and cousin who both have murmurs. My late grandfather suffered quite a few heart attacks. I had an aunt who passed away from a heart attack at a young age. According to the CDC, “The risk for heart disease can increase even more when heredity is combined with unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as smoking cigarettes and eating a poor diet.”
Although there is a family history of heart disease, neither of my parents have any problems so I’m in no immediate danger. However, that doesn’t mean I give myself permission to slack off on my health. Every year I have a biometric screening. Biometric screenings are short tests that check blood pressure, blood glucose levels, as well as the good and bad cholesterol. I also have my doctor run a full lipid panel so I know my triglyceride levels, too.
Runners are not exempt. The fit and healthy still need to have their cholesterol levels checked. Exercise helps to reduce one’s risk of heart disease, it isn’t a cure all (Runners World, August 2004). Aside from exercise, we need to eat healthy starting with these three steps.
Step 1: Reduce the salt
I think there is too much salt used in food preparation today. When I cook I try to reduce the salt or omit it all together. Too much salt in the diet may increase blood pressure which may lead to heart disease and stroke. The current guidelines for salt intake are 2,300 mg per day, unless you are in at risk group then the intake drops to 1,500 mg per day. What does this equate to? One teaspoon of salt is approximately 2,300 mg, and little over half a teaspoon of salt equals 1,500 mg.
Step 2: Increase your veggies and whole grains
Vegetables and whole grains pack nutrients and fiber! There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber has been shown to reduce bad cholesterol and insoluble fiber may reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. For recipes see the end of this article.
Step 3: Exercise
You don’t have to run marathons to be a person who exercises! Do you like to hike? Do you like to walk? Do you take a yoga class? Guess what – you are exercising! And it really is simple. What do you do first thing when you get up in the morning? If you said, brush your teeth then that is correct but it isn’t the first thing you do. If you said, push the snooze button, then that too is an answer but not the one I intended. You get out of bed and walk. You walk to bathroom to get ready for the day. If you’re like me, there are the occasional morning you walk to the alarm clock and hit snooze.
The point is walking is an easy low impact form of exercise. We know the 10,000 steps a day campaign. This year the American Heart Association is promoting 30 minutes a day. I want you to take it one step further by simply trying to walk more each day or at each time interval.
For instance, if you choose to walk for 30 minutes at lunch then count your steps during that time, aiming for little increases each time. Change your route, take the stairs, walk a little faster — any of these suggestions will help increase your steps, improve your health and help build a stronger heart.
Heart disease is referred to as a silent killer because people often have no symptoms.
Our only course of realistic action is to educate ourselves. To be informed means to ask questions. So ask your doctor questions at your next check up and know your family history. Knowing your family history can help you take control go from being vulnerable to strong!
Try these recipes to add heart healthy fiber and whole grains to your diet!
- Parmesan & Chicken Brown Rice Bowl
- Gallo Pinto with Red Pepper
- Curried Chickpeas with Mustard Greens
- Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Pecans
- Purple & Red Bell Pepper Ranch Salad
- Spinach & Chard Salad with Baby Reds
- American Heart Association
- Learn about the risks associated with heart attacks
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- American Stroke Association
- Learn more about strokes
- Watch the PBS video: The Mysterious Human Heart. Episode Three: The Silent Killer
- Pirtle, Jennifer. “The Heart of a Runner.” Runners World. 2004.
- Read stories of women survivors!