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Heart health: Living smart

Family Features | 4/20/2015, 5:07 a.m.
When it comes to recognizing and responding to the signs of a heart attack, early action can make the difference ...

Family Features

When it comes to recognizing and responding to the signs of a heart attack, early action can make the difference between life and death. But action even earlier to improve lifestyle and eating habits can make a big difference, too.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports about 25 percent of all deaths each year in the United States can be attributed to heart disease, making it the single largest killer of both men and women. Taking a preventive approach and making healthy choices can help manage your risk for a heart attack and other forms of heart disease.

Help protect your heart with these healthy lifestyle tips from the CDC:

• Manage medical conditions. Certain diseases and health conditions are known to put you at greater risk for developing heart disease, including diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Follow your doctor’s guidance to gain control of any medical issues early on.

• Pay attention to what you eat. Eat plenty of healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables, and reduce or eliminate less healthy options. Foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber can help prevent high blood cholesterol.

One good option to start your day right is whole grain cereal. In fact, according to a recent survey, nine out of 10 doctors would recommend Post Shredded Wheat as part of a low sodium, healthy diet to help maintain a healthy heart, reduce the risk of heart disease and support healthy blood pressure levels.

• Maintain a healthy weight. Exceeding your ideal weight range for your height puts you at greater risk for heart disease. Check with your doctor to determine whether your weight is in a healthy range. This can generally be determined by calculating your body mass index. If you are overweight, seek help from nutrition specialists to establish an eating plan that works best for you.

• Get moving. Exercise manage weight and can also help with other problems, like high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Adults should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, at least five days a week. Consult your doctor before starting any exercise plan.

• Eliminate or reduce unhealthy habits. Smoking raises your risk of heart disease. Physicians can assist smokers find a smoking cessation program, and many insurance companies now cover these treatments. Similarly, excessive alcohol consumption can raise your blood pressure, which in turn escalates your chances of heart disease.