During the month of February, Americans see hearts everywhere. Most Americans see it as a month that is dedicated to love. It is also American heart month, a time to show your anatomical heart some love in addition to the heart as you emotional center.
Cardiovascular disease (a fancy medical term that includes heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke) is the number one killer nationwide. It is also known as the “silent killer” as there are many times no warning signs or symptoms associated with heart disease. According to the Center for Disease Control, it is also a leading cause of disability in the US and costs us over $300 billion annually in cost of healthcare, medications, and productivity.
There are many risks associated with CVD. Some of them you can alter, others you can’t. Modifiable risk factors include diet, exercise, tobacco use, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Non-modifiable risk factors include gender, family history, age, and ethnicity.
As you begin to take the journey toward better cardiovascular health, it is important not to get overwhelmed. At a conference recently I heard a word that will help keep you from feeling you are in over your head: JOLT, which stands for Just One Little Thing. Rather than thinking you have to make multiple major changes at once, taking it one small modification at a time will have tremendous effects on your heart health. Other things you can do include partnering up with someone else, don’t get discouraged, and reward yourself! Let’s face it. No one wants to make major changes on their own and we all need a little accountability and encouragement from time to time! It is easy to get discouraged with changes when we are focusing on the negative, so reward yourself through the process as you make those small changes. Set goals, and when you reach them, celebrate!
Prevention is key when it comes to cardiovascular disease. At a recent lecture I attended in regard to Whole Food Nutrition, an MD said “Your body never forgets how to prevent what you don’t yet have.”
So what are some things you can do to help prevent cardiovascular disease? The list below is just a few things you can change (http://www.cdc.gov/features/heartmonth/).
Work with your healthcare team-get a check up at least annually
Monitor your blood pressure-remember there are no symptoms of high blood pressure most of the time, so check it regularly
Monitor your cholesterol- have it checked at your annual exam
Eat a well balanced diet with lots of FRESH, RAW fruits and vegetables with moderate amounts of healthy fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, and avacado
Maintain a healthy weight- through diet and exercise
Regular exercise- at least 30 minutes of activity 5 days a week
Don’t smoke- if you currently smoke, you should quit; if you don’t, don’t start
Manage other chronic health conditions such as diabetes
Happy Heart Month! Keep your heart healthy. And remember: JOLT- Just One Little Thing.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN