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Cardiovascular Health Tips

You’re never too young— or too old — to take care of your heart. Preventing heart disease (and all cardiovascular diseases) means making smart choices now that will pay off the rest of your life. Lack of exercise, a poor diet and other unhealthy habits can take their toll over the years. Anyone at any age can benefit from simple steps to keep their heart healthy during each decade of life. Here’s how:

• Choose a healthy eating plan. The food you eat can decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke. Choose foods low in saturated fat, trans fat( produced industrially from vegetable fats for use in margarine, snack foods, packaged baked goods and fried fast food), and sodium. As part of a healthy diet, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, fibre-rich whole grains, fish (preferably oily fish-at least twice per week), nuts, legumes and seeds and try eating some meals without meat. Select lower fat dairy products and poultry (skinless). Limit sugar-sweetened beverages and red meat. If you choose to eat meat, select the leanest cuts available. Eating smaller portions of nutrient-rich foods will help you maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight gain causes your heart to work harder and increases the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.

• Be physically active. You can slowly work up to at least 2½ hours (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (e.g., brisk walking) every week or 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity (e.g., jogging, running) or a combination of both every week.
Additionally, on 2 or more days a week you need muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest shoulders, and arms). Children should get at least 60 minutes of activity every day. If you need motivation to get moving, find a workout buddy.

• It's never too early or too late to learn the warning signs of a heart attack and stroke. Not everyone experiences sudden numbness with a stroke or severe chest pain with a heart attack. And heart attack symptoms in women can be different in men.

• Find a doctor and have regular wellness exams. Healthy people need doctors, too. Establishing a relationship with a physician means you can start heart-health screenings now. Talk to your doctor about your diet, lifestyle and check your blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate, blood sugar and body mass index. Ideal body mass index (BMI) is 18.5–24.9 kg/m2. . Blood Pressure less than 140/90 mm Hg or less than 130/80 mm Hg if you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease. Waist circumference not more than 40 inches for men and not more than 35 inches for women. Knowing where your numbers stand early makes it easier to spot a possible change in the future.

• Don’t smoke and avoid second-hand smoke. If you picked up smoking as a teen, it’s time to quit smoking. Even exposure to second-hand smoke poses a serious health hazard.

• Make heart-healthy living a family affair. Create and sustain heart-healthy habits in your kids and you’ll reap the benefits, too. Spend less time on the couch and more time on the move. Explore a nearby park on foot or bicycle. Shoot some hoops or walk the dog. Plant a vegetable and fruit garden together in the yard, and invite your kids into the kitchen to help cook.

• Know your Family History. Shake down your family tree to learn about heart health. Having a relative with heart disease increases your risk, and more so if the relative is a parent or sibling. That means you need to focus on risk factors you can control by maintain healthy weight, exercising regularly, not smoking and eating right. Also, keep your doctor informed about any heart problems you learn about in your family.

• Tame your stress. Long-term stress causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure that may damage the artery walls. Learning stress management techniques not only benefits your body, but also your quality of life.

• Don’t brush off Snoring. Listen to your sleeping partner’s complaints about your snoring. One in five adults has at least mild Sleep Apnea, a condition that causes pauses in breathing during sleep. If not properly treated, Sleep Apnea can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

• Have an ankle-brachial index test. Starting in your 60s, it's a good idea to get an ankle-brachial index test as part of a physical exam. The test assesses the pulses in the feet to help diagnose Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD), a lesser-known cardiovascular disease in which plaque builds up in the leg arteries.

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