Healthy Hearts

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in America, and the top killer for most of the country’s racial groups.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in every four deaths in America is caused by heart disease. Additionally, the CDC reported almost half of sudden cardiac deaths occur outside the confines of a hospital. This suggests those with heart disease are not “acting on the early warning signs.”

Unfortunately for those who have passed away, but fortunately for the living, heart disease is largely avoidable. The major determinant of heart health is lifestyle. Today, we are going to highlight key behaviors everyone should include in their daily life.

Healthy Eating

Scientists at the University of Sao Paolo recently reported nearly 60 percent of the average American’s daily calories come from “ultraprocessed” foods. According to lead scientist Carlos Monteiro, these foods include ingredients such as flavors, colors, sweeteners, hydrogenated oils, and other additives. The same study found Americans receive less than one percent of their daily calories from vegetables.

Sometimes it seems people believe eating healthy means following some complex lists of dos or don’ts. In fact, the key is moderation. Sugars, fats, sodium, and starches should not make up the majority of a person’s daily diet. Instead, stock up on fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and lean proteins. This does not mean kicking candy, fried foods, and chunks of steak to the curb. Instead, it means enjoying these foods in moderation.

Physical Activity

There are numerous suggestions about the proper amount of physical activity necessary for a healthy life. The Surgeon General recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week. This type of exercise includes brisk walking (15 to 20-minute-mile pace), bicycling (slower than 10 miles an hour), ballroom dancing, tennis (doubles), and water aerobics.

If you are only completing about 2 hours and 30 minutes of exercise a week, it needs to be spread out across four to five days. Some people enjoy doing 20 to 30-minute exercises to start their day, while others prefer walking a brisk pace on their lunch breaks. Figure out what works for your schedule, so it will become a part of your daily/weekly routine.

Weight Management

Although it is possible to be overweight and live a healthy lifestyle, being obese does increase your chances of developing heart disease. Exercise plays a role in maintaining and decreasing weight, but the real key to weight loss is nutrition and portion control. Follow the guidelines mentioned above in addition to the recommended portion sizes. If you eat out on a regular basis, keep in mind restaurants often provide portion sizes that are two to four times larger than normal.

Avoiding Unhealthy Behaviors

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking. In addition to strokes, lung disease, diabetes, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis, smoking is also a cause of heart disease. Although heart disease is avoidable, smoking is the “leading cause of preventable death.”

Those who are interested in lowering their risk of heart disease should also avoid excessive drinking, binge eating, and stress-related activities. Additionally, recent reports have found a link between sitting for long periods of time with a number of health concerns, including heart disease. In fact, Dr. James A. Levine said individuals who log more than four hours a day of recreational screen time (watching Netflix, playing video games, etc.) have a 125 percent “increased risk of events associated with cardiovascular disease.”

If you feel overwhelmed, take a moment to breathe and consider your current lifestyle choices. Determine where you want to be to ensure optimal health, and then create a plan of action. If need be, take baby steps to slowly revolutionize your life. And remember: Patients can always call APEX Direct Care for any questions you may have about your health.