By: Bailey Schnarr
This February is dedicated to bringing awareness and change to heart disease and stroke. National Heart Month is a month to spread the importance of heart health in America. Statistically speaking, heart disease is the number one leading cause of death for Americans, with 1.5 million Americans suffering from heart attacks and strokes each year. Heart disease can be prevented. With simple lifestyle changes such as eating healthy, exercising regularly and not smoking, you can defend your body.
The Million Hearts initiative, as well as efforts like The HeartTruth, have teamed up with the Department of Health and Human Services to raise awareness of heart disease. Million Hearts has goal of preventing 1 million heart attacks and strokes over a 5-year period. The HeartTruth addresses women's heart health and works to provide people with resources and ways to make heart healthy changes in their every day lives.
Along with the efforts of individual initiatives such as Million Heart and The HeartTruth, the new Affordable Care Act states that health plans must cover recommended preventative services, including blood pressure screening for all adults and cholesterol screening for adults of certain ages or at higher risk, cost-free.
All of these organizations are taking great strides in order to create a more heart healthy America. However their hard work will be useless unless people adopt healthier lifestyles, to prevent heart disease and stroke. You always hear healthy eating and regular exercise is important, and they are, but sometimes it is hard to know where to start.
In order to have a healthy diet the first step is to substitute foods that are high in fat and cholesterol with ones that are more heart healthy. For example try egg whites instead of eggs, or skim milk instead of whole milk. Substituting a baked potato for your side at a restaurant instead of fries or frozen yogurt instead of ice cream are simple and delicious ways to transition. For more smart substitutions visit: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyCooking/Smart-Substitutions_UCM_302052_Article.jsp
If you are not yet physically active, just like with the food substitutions small steps in the right direction are encouraged. A great way to get your heart rate up and have a great time doing it is to put on some running shoes go on a walk with a friend. Walking at a decent pace will improve your cardio vascular health and tone your legs.
The American Heart Association also has a walking program called startwalkingnow.org in which you can find walking paths near where you live and have a personal activity tracker to help you reach your goals. http://www.startwalkingnow.org/
This month, as we take time to learn about the risks of heart disease, consider what steps you and your family can take to promote and adopt a heart healthy lifestyle.
For more information on American Heart Month, please visit: http://millionhearts.hhs.gov
You can also visitThe American Heart Association to learn the warning signs of a heart attack or stroke:http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/