toi degree column preventing heart disease

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

February is National Heart Month. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer among American women, with strokes coming in at a close No. 3.
But the good news is that both heart disease and strokes are preventable.
According to the American Heart Association, preventing heart disease, stroke and heart attack is as easy as ABC:
– Avoid tobacco
– Become more active
– Choose good nutrition
Following these three simple steps can reduce all of the modifiable risk factors for heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
Stop smoking: If you smoke, quit. If someone in your household smokes, encourage them to quit. You may not be able to quit cold turkey, but commit to quit. Start by cutting the number of cigarettes you smoke each day in half. Then, cut that number in half. Cut it in half again. Finally, cut down to zero. Smoking has many negative effects on the body, including decreasing HDL (good) cholesterol, increasing blood pressure and the tendency for the blood to clot. Smoking increases the risk of heart disease by itself. When it acts with other factors, it greatly increases risk, not to mention the cost of smoking. Saving money is just one of the many reasons to quit.
Be physically active every day: Research has shown that getting 30 to60 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week can help lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and help you to maintain a healthy weight. Since obesity is an epidemic in America, good nutrition and physical activity are the only way to maintain a healthy weight. Obesity places you at risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and insulin resistance, a precursor of type 2 diabetes รณ the very factors that heighten your risk of cardiovascular disease. Your Body Mass Index (BMI) will tell you if your weight is healthy. So, if you’re doing nothing now, start out slow. Walking is always a good start and build from there. Studies show that people who have achieved even a moderate level of fitness are much less likely to die early than those with a low fitness level.
Develop a healthy lifestyle: Weight management and nutrition are very important. Much of what we eat or don’t eat affects our health. It is important that we remember to eat a variety of foods from each of the food groups daily. Doing so will provide the necessary nutrients you need. When we eat we also need to be mindful of how much we are eating. Moderation is the key word here. That also goes for drinking. Too much alcohol can raise blood pressure, cause heart failure and lead to stroke. It can also contribute to high triglycerides, produce irregular heartbeats and affect cancer and other diseases. It contributes to obesity, alcoholism, suicide and accidents. The risk of heart disease in people who drink moderate amounts of alcohol (an average of one drink for women or two drinks for men per day) is lower than in nondrinkers. However, it’s not recommended that nondrinkers start using alcohol or that drinkers increase the amount they drink.
For more information about how to become heart healthy, visit the American Heart Association at There you will be able to find out more information about Go Red, warning signs for heart attack and strokes, and much more useful information.
For additional information contact Toi N. Degree Family & Consumer Education Agent with the N. C. Cooperative Extension Service Rowan County Center. Toi may also be reached at 704- 216- 8979 or e-mail her at Toi_Degree@ncsu.ed.