Heart disease is a major problem. Most of us likely know someone who has a problem with heart disease. Every year, about 715,000 Americans have a heart attack. About 600,000 people die from heart disease in the United States each year - that's 1 out of every 4 deaths. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. These statistics, taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website, should be a wake-up call for all of us to be knowledgeable and proactive about taking good care of our heart.
The term "heart disease" refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type in the United States is coronary heart disease (also called coronary artery disease), which occurs when a substance called plaque builds up in the arteries that supply blood to our heart. Coronary heart disease can cause heart attack, angina, heart failure and arrhythmias.
The CDC notes that the situation is alarming, but there is good news - heart disease is preventable and controllable. February is American Heart Month, a time set aside each year to remind us of the importance of taking of our heart.
You can help prevent heart disease by making healthy choices and managing any medical conditions you may have. The CDC offers these tips to help do this:
1. Eat a healthy diet. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Eat foods low in saturated fat, trans fats and cholesterol and high in fiber. Limiting salt or sodium in your diet can help you lower your blood pressure.
2. Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease. To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, aim for a BMI of 19-25.
3. Exercise regularly. The Surgeon General recommends that adults should engage in moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
4. Monitor your blood pressure.
5. Don't smoke. Smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease.
6. Limit alcohol use. Avoid drinking too much alcohol. Men should stick to no more than two drinks per day and women to no more than one.
7. Have your cholesterol checked.
8. Manage your diabetes. If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar levels closely.
9. Take your medicine. If you're taking medication to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, follow your doctor's instructions carefully.
There are plenty of things we can do to help ourselves prevent the complications of heart disease. Every journey begins with one step and today is a good day for the first step on the road to a healthy heart.
Cheryl Rude is a registered dietitian at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center.