Care for your heart, prevent heart disease at any age

| March 5, 2010 | 0 Comments

BethAnn Cameron
U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine

Heart disease is preventable, and no matter how young you are, it’s not too soon to think about taking care of your heart.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, causing more than 652,000 deaths in 2005. Nearly 2,400 Americans die of heart disease each day. In 2006, more than 80 million people had heart disease, a disease of the heart and blood vessels.

The arteries thicken and harden over time with a buildup of plaque. Plaque is made from cholesterol and fatty substances that cause the arteries to become clogged and block the blood flow to the heart. That part of the heart dies when blood flow is blocked.

Positive lifestyle changes can reduce a person’s risk of heart disease. However, there are steps to take at any age to help prevent heart disease.

Care for your heart by making dietary changes, exercising, quitting smoking and managing stress to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Make a yearly date with the doctor. Get blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar checked. Put the date on the calendar as a special date, just like birthdays or anniversaries.

Be physically active daily. Exercise at least 30 minutes, five days a week or more. Get a step counter and set a goal to walk at least 10,000 steps daily.

Maintain ideal weight. Being overweight increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. To achieve long-term weight loss, don’t skip meals but eat 200 to 300 calories less each day. Eat smaller portions. Eat breakfast every day.

Cut down on salt to help lower high blood pressure. Eat less than 2,400 mg of sodium per day, which is about one teaspoon of salt. Eat less food that has sodium in its name, such as monosodium glutamate. Use the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet, which helps to reduce blood pressure and is low in fat. Visit the DASH eating plan at,

Quit tobacco use. Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood and raises blood pressure. To quit smoking, make a personal quit plan. Pick a quit day. Get rid of tobacco in the house, car and workplace. Avoid smoking areas or being around people who smoke.

Cut down on alcohol. Too much alcohol can raise blood pressure, cause heart failure, and lead to a stroke.

Manage your stress. People can have a healthier heart when they reduce stress. Stress raises blood pressure and can damage the arteries.



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