You may have heard that February is “Heart Awareness” month, but have you ever asked yourself why heart health is so important? Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. According to the CDC website (www.cdc.gov), 1 in 3 deaths in the US can be attributed to cardiovascular diseases (which is a broad term that encompasses heart attacks, strokes, and a variety of other heart conditions). Another surprising stat: 1 in 5 heart attacks is actually silent—a person can have a heart attack without even realizing it, despite internal damage it may have caused. Kind of scary to think about!
Life is pretty unpredictable, and not everything is in our control (I think this pandemic has been a reminder of that.) Fortunately, we can control the choices we make when it comes to our lifestyle. I realize this can be very challenging, especially after years of eating a particular way, but I’ve also seen how rewarding it can be when people start making changes and feel the results! Some of the risk factors for heart disease that we can impact by our lifestyle choices include: our physical activity levels, weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar levels (having diabetes increases our risk of developing heart disease), and whether we smoke or drink alcohol.
Thankfully, we can try to keep it simple for ourselves. We don’t have to change everything at once. Eating a few extra servings of fruits/vegetables throughout the week, slowing down a bit on our salt intake, choosing foods that offer heart healthy fats in place of foods that are high in saturated/trans fat, incorporating a short walk throughout the day…each of these steps is a great first step in the right direction!
Heart disease runs in my family—several family members have hypertension, high cholesterol, and/or have had strokes. My grandpa had multiple heart attacks and open-heart surgeries during his lifetime, with his first being at the young age of 52! I obviously can’t control my family history, but I can make an effort to reduce my own risk by being mindful of my choices. Not aiming for perfection—but doing the best I can to respect and take care of my health each day.
Check us out on Instagram: @nutritionadvantage and browse through our recent posts to find several tips related to nutrition and heart health.
By Julia Blackford