Does your heart have a healthy beat? How about your family members’? How many of them have high blood pressure, have had strokes, heart attacks, or other types of heart disease? As I talk to groups around the county and ask these questions, there are always a good number in the group who can attest to a family history of heart disease.
Most of us can quickly list a number of family members, sometimes ourselves, who fit in this category. Having a healthy heart begins with knowing your risk factors for heart disease or stroke and knowing what you can and cannot change.
Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death for Robeson County. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Robeson County’s 2010 State of the County Health report, death rates due to heart disease have steadily increased from 198.7 cases per 100,000 people in 2006 to 458 cases per 100,000 people during 2007 to 2009.
As you can see from these statistics, despite advances in medical research, people still die of heart attacks and strokes. Many people do not know or understand the personal steps they can take to improve their health and prevent or slow down the advancement of heart disease. Often, they don’t follow medical advice about diet changes simply because they do not understand how.
Factors that put you at risk for heart attack or stroke are high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, being overweight or obese, and a lack of physical activity. If your cholesterol is 200 or more, your doctor can advise you on how to lower it. It’s not just food that can increase cholesterol numbers; other factors include family history, as well as being male and aging.
My husband’s cholesterol increased 10 points each year for two years in a row after he reached the age of 50. To the delight of his wife and doctor, he was able to bring down his cholesterol numbers by changing his diet.
Give Your Heart a Healthy Beat is a 14-week program offered by North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center. It is designed to help you understand how to change your eating habits and lifestyle to prevent or lower your risk for heart attack or stroke.
Here are a few tips you can learn more about in Give Your Heart a Healthy Beat sessions.
First of all — move more. Start slow and do 30 minutes to an hour of physical activity most days.
Also, it’s important to read labels and set a better table. Use the nutrition facts label and ingredients list to determine whether or not to buy a product. Learn to look beyond the pretty, deceptive packaging.
Also, remember that it could be salt’s fault. Those over 50 years old, African American of any age, or who have already had heart disease or high blood pressure should limit sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams or less daily. Re-train your taste buds to enjoy less salt.
Budgeting your intake of fat is also important. No more than 30 percent of total daily calories should come from fat. Limit saturated fat to less than 10 percent of the 30 percent, and lower trans fats to less than 1 gram.
It would also help to lower the fat, sugar and sodium in your favorite recipes. One tip for baked goods is to reduce the fat by one measure on a measuring cup. Instead of a cup of butter, use three-fourths of a cup. Try substituting applesauce for all or part of the fat in baked products.
For information about this 14-week program, contact Janice Fields, Extension Family and Consumer Sciences agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 910-671-3276, by email at Janice_Fields@ncsu.edu, or by visiting http://robeson.ces.ncsu.edu.