Taking care of your heart is easy

By Mike DeCinti

February 8, 2014

Friday is Valentine’s Day, and if nothing else it should at least have you thinking about things like love and hearts, so why not take it one step further and think about ‘loving your heart?’ February is American Heart Month, and the facts about heart disease are not something you’re going to learn from Cupid.

More than 70 million Americans live with some form of heart disease, and the disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States. During February, the American Heart Association reinforces its commitment to fighting heart disease by promoting awareness about its risks, its causes and ways to reduce the chance of developing this deadly illness.

According to recent estimates, nearly one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure, but because there are no symptoms, 33 percent of these people don’t know they have it. In fact, many people have high blood pressure for years without knowing it. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney failure. This is why high blood pressure is often called the “silent killer” — the only way to tell if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked.

The American Heart Association encourages Americans to work toward four simple goals that can lead to a healthy heart: take advantage of preventive screenings to detect problems early; avoid tobacco, drugs, and excessive alcohol; develop good eating habits; and exercise daily. Many of the factors that lead to heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and obesity, can be controlled with commonsense steps and healthy lifestyles. But sadly obesity has continued to become this nation’s growing health concern.

There are 400 million adults worldwide who are obese and 1.6 billion who are overweight. Children are getting fatter, too. Worldwide, 155 million children are overweight, including 30 million to 45 million obese children.

World ide, more than 60 percent of adults do not engage in sufficient levels of physical activity that are beneficial to their health. Physical inactivity increases the risk of developing heart disease 1.5 times and doubles the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Inactivity alone may have contributed as much as $55.76 billion to U.S. medical costs in 2000. In the U.S., for every dollar invested in physical activity, there is a $3.21 saving on medical costs.

Physical inactivity increases the risk of developing heart disease partly because it raises the likelihood of developing significant cardiovascular disease risk factors.

One study showed that unfit women have up to a 55 percent greater chance of developing high blood pressure than a moderately fit woman of the same age. Physical inactivity is also linked to blood clots and abnormal levels of fat in the blood.

However, by simply becoming physically active, you can begin to protect yourself.

Children should have 60 minutes of at least moderate-intensity physical activity each day at a minimum. This level of physical activity reduces the risk of inappropriate weight gain.

Adults should have at least 30 minutes of moderate activity daily.

The longer one exercises the greater the benefits: two hours of exercise a week raises the good fats in the blood, thus protecting the heart.

Moderate activity includes brisk walking, bicycling, vacuuming, gardening or anything else that causes small increases in breathing or heart rate.

Vigorous activity includes running, aerobics, serious gardening or anything else that causes large increases in breathing or heart rate.

What is so discouraging is the fact that although we all have the power to protect ourselves by striving toward these goals, most Americans ignore that fact and suffer needlessly. Making healthy choices is simple in theory, but it takes a disciplined person to stick with it. Sadly, most people can do it, but choose not to until it’s too late.

So on Friday, before you eat those chocolates you got from your Valentine, think about this — and if you do decide to eat them, just make sure you go and exercise a little bit harder.