Tips for Keeping a Healthy Heart

Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, and people of most racial ethnic groups in the United States? Every 36 seconds (in the US) someone dies and about 665, 000 Americans die each year from cardiovascular disease – that's 1 in every 4 deaths. If that's not enough to get your heart pumping to learn more information about heart disease, I don't know what is!

Let's start with some basics about the heart. The heart is one of the body's most essential organs. It's a muscle that's about the size of your fist and is located to the left of the middle of your chest. The heart's role is to send blood around your body providing it with oxygen and nutrients and to carry away waste. Your heart is crucial to your survival because it affects every part of your body. That means it's important to keep it healthy and avoid things that can damage it.

Here are some fun facts about the heart:

  • The heart will beat about 115,000 times each day
  • The heart pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood every day
  • The heart can continue beating even when it's disconnected from the body
  • Most heart attacks happen on a Monday
  • Christmas day is the most common day of the year for heart attacks to happen
  • A woman's heart beats slightly faster than a man's heart
  • A man's heart, on average, is 2 ounces heavier than a woman's heart

Heart or cardiovascular disease includes a wide range of cardiovascular problems that describe damage to the heart and blood vessels. Several of these diseases and conditions fall under the umbrella term, heart disease. Types of heart disease include:

  • Arrythmia –abnormal heartbeats
  • Atherosclerosis – reduces blood supply to extremities
  • Cariomyopathy – causes the heart muscle to harden or grow weak
  • Congenital heart defects – a person is born with heart irregularities that are usually detected immediately after birth
  • Coronary artery disease (CAD) – caused by buildup of plaque in the heart's arteries
  • Heart infections – possibly caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites

Heart disease does not discriminate and everyone is at risk. Risk factors include:

  • High cholesterol or high blood pressure
  • Age – growing older increases your risk
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Physically inactive
  • Stress
  • Poor dental health
  • Diabetes
  • Unhealthy diet

Although certain types of heart disease, such as heart defects, can't be prevented, the good news is most types can. In fact, 8 in 10 cases of premature heart disease and stroke cases are preventable through healthy lifestyle behaviors. Even better news, healthy lifestyle changes will not only improve heart disease, they can help prevent it as well! Below are some lifestyle choices you can make to start protecting your heart for a healthy future:

  • Eat a healthy balanced diet – learn heart-healthy choices you can make at home or dining out
  • Exercise – 30 minutes of activity on most days of the week
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Stop smoking
  • Manage and reduce stress
  • Practice good hygiene
  • Control health conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes

Although making permanent, healthy changes can seem overwhelming, be sure to set realistic goals, get support from family and friend and always keep going. No one is perfect and there is always tomorrow if you slip today.