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Heart disease continues to be one of the most common causes of death worldwide.  It is estimated that in the United States close to 85% of individuals over the age of 65 die from heart disease.  There is no question that the risk of heart disease increases with advancing age, but the risk factors are very preventable.  There is ample evidence indicating that making proactive changes in your lifestyle can help slow down or eliminate the risk of heart disease and lead to a good quality of life.

Heart disease is usually precipitated by a group of risk factors that include high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, abnormal heart beat, heart failure or a heart attack.  All of these are serious heart disorders which if not adequately treated, can lead to early death.

Most people have no idea that they have heart disease until they develop symptoms. Some of the more common symptoms of heart disease include:

  • Chest pain
  • Lack of energy
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Swelling of the legs
  • Sensation of feeling faint
  • Palpitations or an irregular heart beat

The one key feature about all these symptoms is that they have similar risk factors like smoking, obesity, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes and uncontrolled high blood pressure.  The good news is that these risk factors can be reduced by making changes in lifestyle.

Focus on the following tips to slow down or reduce the risk factors for heart disease.  One should do the following:

  • Keep your blood pressure under control.  If you have been prescribed blood pressure medications, you should take them as prescribed.
  • Eat a healthy diet that consists of veggies, fruits, nuts, whole wheat, cereals, fish and grains.  Limit the amount of meat and sugar, fast food, oils and foods with a high content of saturated fat.
  • If you have diabetes, take the medications as prescribed to manage your blood sugar.   If your blood sugar levels remain high, complications like blindness, heart attack, kidney failure, damage to the nerves and strokes are possible.
  • If you have high cholesterol, take the medications you have been prescribed.  Exercise regularly and avoid excess fat in your diet.  Regular exercise has been shown to lower levels of cholesterol.
  • Stop smoking:  One of the biggest risk factors for heart disease is nicotine.  Hence, it is important to quit smoking.  Even though there are many over the counter aids to help people quit smoking, few work well and most are expensive.  By quitting smoking, you significantly lower not only risk of heart disease but also lung cancer and peripheral vascular disease.
  • Decrease the intake of alcohol.  While there are reports that drinking small amounts of alcohol can lower the lipid levels, these benefits are not predictable and not seen in everyone.  In addition, it is easy to become addicted to alcohol.  The small benefits of alcohol can easily be replaced with regular walking, which is FREE.
  • Watch your weight.  Another major risk factor for heart disease is obesity, which in most cases can be prevented.  The easiest and simplest way to lower body weight is with a healthy diet and regular exercise.  By decreasing body weight, you not only lower the risk of heart disease, but also reduce the burden of weight on the joints, lower blood pressure, reduce blood cholesterol and decrease the risk of many cancers.

If you already have heart disease, you should always remain compliant with the prescribed medications.  In many cases, heart problems arise when people fail to take the medications as prescribed.  Do not change the drug dosage or add any other supplements or herbs to your drug regimen without first speaking to your heart doctor.  It is never too late to prevent heart disease and live a healthy lifestyle – so start today.

 

Contributor: Kim Farmer of Mile High Fitness & Wellness. Mile High Fitness & Wellness offers in-home personal training and corporate wellness solutions.  Visit  www.milehighfitness.com or email thrive@milehighfitness.com

© 2015 Colorado Black Health Collaborative
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