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An Echo Press Editorial: Take charge of your heart's health

By the Echo Press Editorial Board

Are you wearing red today?

Friday, Feb. 4 is National Wear Red Day, organized by the American Heart Association to raise awareness of the fact that heart disease is the number one killer of women – killing more than all forms of cancer combined.

Men, of course, are also impacted by heart disease. It’s the leading cause of death for men in the United States and 357,761 men died from it in 2019, which is about 1 in every 4 male deaths. Half of the men who die suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Even if you have no symptoms, you may still be at risk for heart disease, the CDC points out.

Other insights from the CDC:

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States.
  • One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease.
  • About 659,000 people in the United States die from heart disease each year.
  • Heart disease costs the United States about $363 billion each year from 2016 to 2017.2 This includes the cost of healthcare services, medicines, and lost productivity due to death.

The AHA is encouraging all men and women to take charge of their health. This month – American Heart Month – is an ideal time to do just that. President Lyndon B. Johnson, among the millions of people in the country who’d had heart attacks, issued the first proclamation for American Heart Month in 1964 to spotlight heart disease.
This year marks the 58th annual celebration, and the AHA is urging all people to “reclaim your rhythm.” Specifically, with all eyes on the pandemic for the past two and a half years, the AHA is encouraging people to reclaim control of their mental and physical well-being.

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The AHA provided a list of a few examples of how people can reclaim their health:

  • Doing at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week.
  • Not smoking or vaping.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Controlling blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Getting regular checkups.
  • Learning Hands Only CPR.
  • Following COVID-19 safety protocols.
  • Finding ways to relax and ease your mind.

Another important step is switching to a healthier diet. The AHA recommends that you:
Eat a variety of fruit and vegetable servings every day. Dark green, deep orange, or yellow fruits and vegetables are especially nutritious. Examples – spinach, carrots, peaches and berries.

Eat a variety of grain products every day. Include whole-grain foods that have lots of fiber and nutrients. Examples of whole grains – oats, whole wheat bread, and brown rice.

Eat fish at least two times each week. Oily fish, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, are best for your heart. These fish include tuna, salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring and sardines.

Stay at a healthy weight by balancing the amount of calories you eat with the activity you do every day. If you want to lose weight, increase your activity level to burn more calories than you eat.

Eat foods low in saturated fat and trans fat.

Limit sodium. Most people get far more sodium than they need.

Limit alcohol intake to two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.

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Limit drinks and foods with added sugar.

That’s a lot of advice that may seem overwhelming, but making these changes, step-by-step, will allow you to reclaim your rhythm and live longer.

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