In honor of Health Literacy Awareness Month, we're bringing you the information you need to make informed decisions about your day to day health management. Part of health literacy is knowing your risk factors and how to decrease them. What's a risk factor? A condition, situation or behavior that makes it more likely that you will develop certain chronic diseases.
What is Heart Disease? Heart disease is an umbrella term for any disease state that affects the functioning of the heart. The following is a list of the most common types of heart disease: high blood pressure (hypertension); high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia); CAD (coronary artery disease); Heart Failure (also sometimes referred to by lay people as "fluid on the lungs" or "fluid around the heart").
Things We Can Change (Modifiable Risks)Things We Can't Change (Nonmodifiable Risks)
-Smoking -Age (risk increases after age 65)
-Heavy alcohol use -Race/Ethnicity
-Lack of exercise (sedentary lifestyle) -Family History
-Diet high in unhealthy fats (saturated &
-Diet high in salt (sodium)
-Obesity (weighing too much for your body
Ok, so now what? Diet and exercise- I know. Easier said than done.
Here are some tips and things you can start doing right now to reduce your risk-
-Eat more lean meats: turkey, chicken, fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna). And less red meat (beef).
-Eat half: Portions in the U.S. tend to be much larger than the recommended serving. Cut your meal in half at the beginning and share with a friend- or save some for later!
-Oven fry: Use cornflakes or your favorite breading, drizzle with olive oil and bake in the oven. You'll still get that crunch you love.
-Learn about reading food labels: often advertisers place "fat free!" "healthy snacking" on packaging, but if you turn the label over and compare, you'll find they had to add something when they took that other thing away. Chances are the thing that was added is just as bad for you. Maybe you might want to buy the regular and just be careful of your serving size.
-Get moving: Always check with your physician before starting any type of exercise program,, especially if you are already being treated for chronic disease. Walking is a great low impact way to get started. If you don't get much exercise, your body will be like "Woo-hooo!!" It's getting chilly out, so if walking doesn't sound like the thing you want to do, find things to do inside: have a dance party; yoga, tai chi, and other workouts "On Demand" (if you have cable); internet search some exercises you can do at home.
-Stop smoking: this is one of the worst possible things you could do to your heart.... but you already know this. Quitting's hard. When you're ready, there's free help out there at 1-877-448-7848. Don't give up! It's never too late to make the change. And every day is a new opportunity to do it.
-Control your blood sugar: find out what your target sugars are from your doctor and try to make them happen. Call us, we can help. But the long story short is- when your sugars are high, they clog up your blood vessels.
-Control your blood pressure: know your baseline (what your blood pressure usually is). 140/90 is what you want to remember. If you're getting readings like this or higher, speak to your doctor ASAP. Basically, when your blood pressure is high, you damage your blood vessels. Literally something like blowing a gasket....
All these things are great places to start. Remember: CHANGE DOESN'T HAPPEN OVER NIGHT! Don't beat yourself up about slip ups- get right back on that horse and try again. Changing things is hard, but the most important step is the first one.