Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Big Four

The National Institutes for Health (NIH) recommends these habits to help reduce the risk of heart disease. Help commit yourself to these lifestyle changes by creating written goals or working with an accountability partner until these actions become habits in your life!

1. Get Regular Physical Activity

Most adults should plan for 20-to-30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise at least five days a week. Brisk walking, cycling, and swimming are great options. For individuals who are easily bored with the same routine, vary your activities every few days and move your aerobic exercise routine outside when the weather permits. Couple your aerobic exercise with at least two days of strength training that focus on all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

2. Maintain a Healthy Weight 

While obesity is an epidemic in America, be aware that being either overweight or underweight can significantly increase your chances for heart disease. Talk with your health care provider about what a healthy weight would be for you instead of relying solely on an online Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator. BMI calculators don’t account for age, body type and body fat percentage. Maintaining a healthy weight requires a combination of regular physical activity, making appropriate food choices to meet nutritional needs, and controlling portion sizes. Some general guidelines include having a nutritious breakfast that includes lean protein and healthy fats, avoiding excessive sugar intake, and staying hydrated. Make sure you drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water a day; for example: if you weigh 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of water daily (150 ÷2 = 75). For every caffeinated beverage you drink, add another 8 ounces of water. A physician or dietician can help you with a plan that will support you achieving an optimal weight for your best health.

3. Avoid Smoking

According to the NIH, tobacco smoke harms nearly every organ in the body. Specifically, the chemicals in tobacco smoke damage blood cells, damage the function of the heart, and the structure and function of blood vessels. Smoking significantly increases the risk of plaque building up on arterial walls, causing heart disease. There are lots of resources available to assist people who desire to quit cigarette smoking. Your health care provider can help you identify the right resources for you if quitting is a priority.
Exposure to secondhand smoke is also a significant risk factor. As a non-smoker, protect yourself by asking others to smoke outside and not in a closed vehicle. Also avoid places where smoking is allowed.

4. Eat A Healthy Diet

Choosing healthy meals and snacks is important to avoid heart disease. Eliminating processed foods from your diet and creating meals that focus on brightly colored vegetables and fruits wil lower your risk of heart disease. Incorporate 4 to 6 ounces of lean meat or fish or choose alternate protein sources like beans, eggs, or nuts. Cook using healthy fats like olive or coconut oil and avoid hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. Instead of using iodized table salt spice your foods with fresh herbs and spices or choose Celtic Sea Salt or pink Himalayan Salt; these salts have essential minerals that can actually help regulate blood pressure unlike regular table salt. Eliminate processed sugars and artificial sweeteners as much as possible from your diet.

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