Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of American women and men, and it is a leading cause of serious illness and disability. To highlight the importance of understanding and reducing risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease – including heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure – February has been designated as American Heart Month. While Heart Month serves as a good reminder to all of us, it is important to takes steps to improve your heart health all year round.
One of the most prevalent issues affecting heart health is high blood pressure. Physicians and researchers estimate that about 70 million American adults (or 29 percent of the adult population) have high blood pressure. That’s one of every three adults. Unfortunately, only about half of the people with high blood pressure have their condition under control. We also know that more than two-thirds of adults are considered to be overweight or obese. This can contribute to high blood pressure.
Compounding the problem is the fact that many Americans are leading sedentary lifestyles. A new government study estimates that nearly 80 percent of adult Americans do not get the recommended amounts of exercise each week, potentially setting themselves up for years of health problems.
Often, taking care of or improving our heart and overall health involves making rather simple lifestyle modifications such as getting regular blood pressure and cholesterol checkups, giving up bad habits like smoking, and being more active.
Federal guidelines recommend that adults get at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week or one hour and 15 minutes of a vigorous-intensity activity, or a combination of both. Adults should also engage in muscle-strengthening activities like lifting weights or doing push-ups at least twice per week.
Sitting around can also be as deadly as smoking, studies suggest. New research published in The Lancet finds about one-in-10 deaths worldwide are caused by people not getting up and engaging in physical activity such as walking 30 minutes a day for five days a week.
Besides impacting your heart, physical inactivity can lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC. Exercise can also help control weight, and reduce the risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.
Studies have also shown that exercise and moderate weight training may improve brain function. In several of these studies, regular exercise and gentle weight training showed a marked slowdown in lesions in the brain. Lesions are thought to contribute to overall thought-processing decline and memory loss.
What we do know is that small incremental changes can have positive results on a whole host of health issues. Start by making one or two small changes at first, and don’t get discouraged. If you have trouble getting started, talk to your primary physician or a cardiologist. They can help you set up a plan that is achievable for your current age and condition. Your heart will thank you for it.
Cooper University Health Care and Inspira Health Network have joined forces to become Cardiac Partners at Cooper and Inspira. This is more than just a new name. We are more than 65 cardiac experts located throughout South Jersey bringing the best in cardiac care to you and your family. Our combined services span everything from diagnosis to advanced heart surgery to cardiac rehabilitation. Click here to learn more.