Opinion: It’s American Heart Month so listen up

By Robert Beauchamp M.D.

Dr. Robert Beauchamp

Dr. Robert Beauchamp

Heart disease kills more than 600,000 Americans annually, making it the leading cause of death for men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Heart disease includes several conditions that affect the heart and its blood vessels such as coronary artery disease, heart failure and heart arrhythmia.The disease can damage your coronary arteries, heart function or heart rhythms.

February is American Heart Month, an opportunity to adopt healthier habits as a key to a healthy heart. Consider obesity and smoking, two factors that greatly increase the risk of heart disease. That’s because obesity and smoking can increase cholesterol, cause high blood pressure and lead to diabetes. More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, including 760,000 obese adults.

The best prevention is living a healthy lifestyle and making regular visits to your doctor. Here are some simple ways to lead healthy lives and lower the risk of heart related problems.

  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day. The Surgeon General recommends that adults exercise for 2 hours and 30 minutes every week to help maintain a healthy weight, and lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Maintain normal weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease. Talk to your doctor about whether your body mass index places you in a healthy weight range. If you are overweight or obese, talk to your doctor about beginning an exercise and nutrition program.
  • Reduce salt intake. Salt or sodium can increase blood pressure. Removing or reducing this from any diet is an easy way to improve heart health.
  • Increase potassium intake. Potassium is an essential mineral for healthy heart function because it helps the heart to beat. Potassium is found in potatoes, tomatoes, avocados, spinach, beans, peas, bananas, oranges and strawberries, and dried fruits such as raisins apricots, prunes and dates.
  • Limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol causes high blood pressure, so avoid drinking too much.
  • Consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products while reducing total and saturated fat intake. Eating foods that are low in saturated fat and high in fiber can prevent high blood pressure and cholesterol, which greatly reduces the risk of a heart attack.

Robert Beauchamp is medical director for UnitedHealthcare of Colorado.

Opinions expressed in Health News Colorado represent the views of the individual authors.

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