Now that the holiday season is in full swing, it’s important to take steps to stay healthy so you can enjoy the festivities with your family and friends. Here are four of the most important things you can do to stay healthy this year.
The heart is the hardest-working muscle in your body. It beats more than 100,000 times a day, pumping 2,000 gallons of blood every day to supply all your other organs and cells with life-giving oxygen.
In 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson declared February American Heart Month because hundreds of thousands of Americans were dying each year from heart disease. At the time, heart attacks were the leading cause of death in the U.S. While the total number of deaths due to heart attacks has dropped since then, and overall life expectancy has significantly improved, heart disease continues to be the leading cause of deaths in the United States for both men and women.
There are some risk factors for heart disease you can’t control -- such as congenital heart defects and genetic abnormalities. But there are some risk factors you can control and lifestyle choices you can make that will help prevent -- or dramatically reduce -- your risk of heart disease.
As we observe American Heart Month this year, we wanted to share the best things you can do to keep your heart healthy and strong.
1. Stop Smoking
In 1964 the Surgeon General released a landmark study about the dangers of cigarette smoking. It was so widely covered in the press, it became one of the top news stories of the year. Because of that study, laws were passed requiring warnings on cigarette packages and preventing cigarette advertisements in broadcast media.
Smoking remains one of the leading health hazards in the U.S. today. A smoker’s risk of dying of heart disease is 300% higher than a non-smoker’s. Smoking cessation is far and away one of the best ways to improve your health and prevent high blood pressure, lung disease, heart disease and many forms of cancer.
2. Stay Active
The World Health Organization estimates 60% of the world’s population is not active enough. With the increase of machines (like dishwashers and cars), we burn less calories doing every day activities than previous generations have. With the advent of computers, many jobs have become sedentary, with millions of Americans spending eight hours a day sitting in front of a screen. And with TV and movie entertainment readily available (Netflix binges, anyone?), many Americans spend much of their leisure time sitting on the couch, watching their favorite show.
The American Heart Association recommends that you get 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate activity each week to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. While going to the gym or running a few miles a day are great options, even making simple lifestyle changes is enough to fulfill your recommended activity time. For example, you can go for a walk on your lunch break, take your kids to the park on the weekends instead of watching cartoons, bike or walk to work instead of driving, or take the stairs instead of the elevator. The more you move, the healthier your heart will be.
3. Maintain A Healthy Weight
The U.S. has the highest rates of obesity in the world, with 38% of adults qualifying as obese in 2017.
Obesity is dangerous to your heart because it puts more stress on your heart, requiring the heart to perfuse a mile of blood vessels per extra pound of fat. It’s also dangerous because it increases your risk of other conditions that cause cardiovascular disease -- like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most effective ways to keep your heart healthy and strong.
4. Eat Well
A healthy diet is essential to your heart’s health. Eating no more than the recommended number of calories for your gender, activity level and age will help prevent obesity-related diseases.
But even young adults who are not overweight can begin to develop heart disease at a young age if they eat a diet high in simple carbohydrates and saturated fat. Autopsies performed on young American soldiers who died in the Korean War showed that 70 percent of them had early atherosclerosis (blockage of their coronary arteries.)
By eating a calorie-appropriate diet that contains fiber, complex carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids and lean protein, you’ll reduce the risk of developing diseases like diabetes, high cholesterol and atherosclerosis that increase the likelihood of having a heart attack or a stroke.
From all of us at Golden Gate Urgent Care, we wish you a happy, healthy American Heart Month! If there’s anything we can do to help you stay healthy, don’t hesitate to schedule an online appointment or simply walk in to any of our six Bay Area locations to get the care you need.
If you develop symptoms of a heart attack (including chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, arm pain or arm tingling), please go directly to the nearest emergency department or call 911.
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