Heart-Healthy Lifestyle by Karen

Heart-Healthy Lifestyle
By: Karen Hyun Kim

The leading cause of death in the United States is cardiovascular disease. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2006, cardiovascular disease was responsible for 31.7% of all deaths: 26.0% from heart disease and 5.7% from stroke. Deaths from coronary heart disease (425,425 deaths) comprise 67.4% of all deaths from heart disease (631,636 deaths). We know that we can reduce many heart related diseases by modifying our lifestyles, but it is not easy to change our lifestyles. It requires commitment to promote a healthy heart and holistic well- being. Healthy diet, physical activity, and reducing stress are the key factors to maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle.

First of all, it is important to choose healthy foods. Fruits and vegetables protect blood vessels by promoting antioxidant activities in the blood stream. Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, a dietitian with the Preventive Cardiology Center at The Cleveland Clinic states, “You want everything to be in its natural form, as it comes from the ground, the less processed the better”. [3] Try to reduce processed foods and saturated fat or cholesterol rich foods in your diet. Whole grains, beans, legumes, fish containing omega-3 fats are good selection of foods for healthy hearts. Add some healthy food on your regular diet rather than changing your whole food selection. For example, eat some nuts when you wake up every morning. Try to eat fruits rather than ice cream as your dessert. Limiting sodium in your diet will also help maintain a healthy heart. Balanced nutrition will help maintain healthy weight and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Another important factor that influences your heart health is regular physical activity. Lack of physical activity is one of the major issues that can lead to a cardiovascular disease, especially coronary artery disease. It is strongly recommended to exercise five or more days per week for at least 30 minutes. Regular physical activity can help burn unnecessary calories as well as maintain optimal blood pressure and lower cholesterol. If you are not physically active now, start with something easy you can do in your daily life. For example, park your car far from your destination and try to walk as much as you can. Even ten minutes of walking everyday may reduce the risk of heart disease. Studies show that people who have achieved even a moderate level of fitness are much less likely to die early than those with a low fitness level. [2] Some researchers studied the relationship between mental stress and coronary heart disease. Mental stress-induced myocardial ischemia (MSIMI) is common in patients with clinically stable coronary heart disease (CHD) and is associated with poor outcomes. [3] Depression is a risk factor of MSIMI according to Jiang W, Velazquez EJ, et al. If you are under stress, you might overeat, smoke, or drink, which are also the risk factors of coronary artery disease. A healthy mind is the foundation of your physical health.

Changing your lifestyle might sound simple, but it requires a lot of patience and dedication. Plan something that you can easily add or change first. Try to fit a healthy lifestyle into your daily schedule. Maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle will not be very hard if you change your lifestyle step by step. If you make it become your habit rather than a goal, it will be much easier to live a healthier life.

References

1. Jiang W. et al., Responses of mental stress-induced myocardial ischemia to escitalopram treatment: background, design, and method for the Responses of Mental Stress Induced Myocardial Ischemia to Escitalopram Treatment trial. Am Heart J. 2012 Jan;163(1):20-6

2. American Heart Association Online. Lifestyle Changes, accessed December 31, 2012

3. WebMD Online. 25 Top Heart-Healthy Foods, accessed December 31, 2012
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