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Editorial: Make sure heart health is a priority

on Tuesday, 16 February 2021. Posted in Editorials, Opinions

Editorial: Make sure heart health is a priority

There were more than 523.2 million cases of heart disease in 2019 – up 26.6 percent from 2010, according to updated statistics from the American Heart Association’s Heart Disease and Stroke 2021 report. 

February is Heart Month and as such, we would encourage you to take some time this month to learn about your risk for heart disease and the steps you need to take now to help your heart. 

Heart disease – and the conditions that lead to it – can happen at any age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high rates of obesity and high blood pressure among younger people (ages 35-64) are putting them at risk for heart disease earlier in life. 

Nearly half of all Americans have at least one of the top three risk factors for heart disease: 

• High blood pressure – Millions of Americans of all ages have high blood pressure, including millions of people in their 40s and 50s. About half of people with high blood pressure don’t have it under control. Having uncontrolled high blood pressure is one of the biggest risks for heart disease and other harmful conditions, such as stroke; 

• High cholesterol – High cholesterol can increase the risk for heart disease. Having diabetes and/or obesity, smoking, eating unhealthy foods, and not getting enough physical activity can all contribute to unhealthy cholesterol levels; 

• Smoking – More than 35 million U.S. adults are current smokers, and thousands of young people start smoking each day. Smoking damages the blood vessels and can cause heart disease. 

Other conditions and behaviors that affect your risk for heart disease include: 

• Obesity – Carrying extra weight puts stress on the heart. More than 1 in 3 Americans – and nearly 1 in 6 children and adolescents ages 2 to 19 – have obesity; 

• Diabetes – Causes sugar to build up in the blood. This can damage blood vessels and nerves that help control the heart muscle. 

More than 1 in 10 people in the United States have diabetes; 

• Physical inactivity – Staying physically active helps keep the heart and blood vessels healthy. Only 1 in 4 adults meet the physical activity guidelines of getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week; 

•Unhealthy eating patterns – Most Americans, including children, eat too much sodium (salt), which increases blood pressure. Replacing foods high in sodium with fresh fruits and vegetables can help lower blood pressure. Only about 1 in 10 adults get enough fruits and vegetables each day. A diet high in trans fat, saturated fat, and added sugar increases the risk factor for heart disease. 

You’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to your heart. Here are four ways to take control of your heart health: 

• Don’t smoke. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, learn how to quit; 

• Manage conditions. Work with your health care team to manage conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. This includes taking any medicines you have been prescribed; 

• Make heart-healthy eating changes. Eat food low in trans fat, saturated fat, added sugar, and sodium. Try to fill at least half your plate with vegetables and fruits, and aim for low sodium options; 

• Stay active. Get moving for at least 150 minutes per week. You can even break up the exercise into 10-minute blocks for 30 minutes in a day. 

As you celebrate love this Valentine’s month, take a little time to love your heart and get heart healthy.

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