Since February is celebrated as American Heart Month, we’re presenting this health-wise message of caring, sharing and awareness because we indubitably take health matters to heart. While heart disease remains the No.1 cause of death in the world, it’s also the leading cause of death in the United States (killing over 375,000 Americans each year). In most cases, heart disease can be prevented when we educate ourselves and work toward lifestyle modifications that give our hearts a fighting chance.
All too often we hear about heart health and risk factors; but, in order to provide adequate protection, we must learn what to do in order to aid in prevention. Some of the best remedies for heart disease (and most other diseases) are deeply rooted in awareness and the ability to take corrective action quickly and consistently. When we understand the causes associated with the onset of heart disease – we are better equipped to take preventive measures and corrective action to turn things around. In this round of peer-to-peer enlightenment, let’s start by identifying the most commonly associated risk factors linked to heart disease: High Blood Pressure (hypertension), Diabetes Mellitus, Increased Cholesterol, Obesity, Tobacco Use and Family History of Heart Disease. Sadly enough, 49% of all Americans have at least one risk factor (http://bit.ly/TZelementStats4U). And although this percentage is staggering, there is hope. With the exception of family history, there are steps an individual can take to protect against known risk factors. The top four preventative measures an individual can take, include: Exercise, Wellness Exams, Balanced Nutrition and Adequate Rest.**
Now that we know the top contributing factors, let’s take a look at preventive action. Please note: The following steps are offered as a suggestion for what can be done; and should not take the place of advice received from your physician or health provider.
Revive Your Exercise Routine*: There’s no getting around this one… SAYING NO TO EXERCISE IS NOT AN OPTION! It’s imperative to maintain a physical fitness regimen, but let’s keep it real, there are times when we just aren’t committed to a gym membership; and although our intentions are good, we sometimes lack the necessary motivation. Well, fear not! When your commitment starts to wane, it’s not time to throw in the towel, because a really cool way to incorporate physical movement into a healthier lifestyle is through Interval Training (alternating between bursts of increased activity and decreased pace). Here’s an example of how this can work for you: While you’re walking the dog or taking an afternoon stroll, start power-walking at a faster pace for 200ft (using eight light posts along the sidewalk as a measure for distance), followed by jogging at a decreased pace for at least 2-3 minutes. With interval training you can run, jog, walk or dance for a longer period of time for the greater benefit of keeping your cardiovascular system in good shape, and burning unwanted calories. Always remember to have a supply of fresh water on standby, and no matter whether you’re running, jogging, walking or dancing… don’t forget to HAVE FUN! *Consult with your physician or other healthcare professional before starting this or any other fitness activity to determine if is right for your needs.
Wellness-Exams/Checkups: Hardly any of us would stand up and cheer for the chance to undergo a routine checkup; however, a routine checkup that promotes heart-health is indeed something to feel excited about. Routine exams can teach us about heart-health in ways that are more cognitive than physical; which makes it important to follow through with wellness exams as scheduled, or as needed. These exams can include: in-office checkups, lab work, chest X-rays, as well as a Q & A sessions to discuss and disclose your family’s medical history. Whether you’re working to prevent or treat heart disease, it’s imperative that you have an open line of communication with a qualified physician or medical provider; because,
Meal Planning & Portions: If we’ve heard ‘Trainer-Z’ say it once, we’ve heard him say this a thousand times… “Consumption Works Best in Moderation!” Moderation! MODERATION! Mod-eration! But, what does ‘moderation’ really mean in terms of portion control; because, what feels ‘moderate’ to one person – may feel ‘small’ to another person. Portion control (moderation) basically means eating in the ‘middle’ where there is freedom (freedom to be healthy, yet splurge a little when you have a craving). This means freedom to eat what your body desires in the quantity that it needs. If you don’t know portions in terms of percentages, don’t worry—we’ve got you covered! When you’re creating meals with smaller portions, here’s a healthy percentage-based rule of thumb to follow: 50% vegetables, 25% whole grains and 25% lean proteins (steamed fish, baked chicken, turkey, beans or quinoa). In addition to eating smaller meals, keep in mind the effort you put into preparing your meals is just as important as what you will consume. When you prep meals and snacks in advance – try to go with foods rich in Phytochemicals (nutrients found in plants and vegetables): Sterols (wheat bran, peanuts, almonds), Flavonoids (tea, citrus fruit, apples), Antioxidants (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, mangos, soybeans, nuts, beets, red peppers, as well as black and green teas), Carotenoids (carrots, yams, cantaloupe, squash, apricots), Anthocyanins (blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries), and last but not least Sulfides (garlic and onions). Most Phytochemicals are found in fruits and vegetables and are recommended in the fight against inflammation and atherosclerosis (the buildup of fatty deposits in the artery walls). Phytochemicals are also credited with protecting cells from damage that could lead to cancer (this is done by preventing carcinogens from attacking cells). So, if you want to get a moderate dose of Phytochemical nutrients, pack healthy 100–200 calorie snacks such as walnuts, almonds, veggies and fruit, and you’ll make healthier intake options that are good for you and fun to enjoy.
Sleep it Off: Studies show that getting 7–8 hours of sleep not only rejuvenates the body, but also stimulates weight loss. If you’re getting less sleep than your body needs, you might be tampering with the natural release of hormones that become active while your body is at rest (particularly, Ghrelin and Leptin). Ghrelin is known as the ‘go’ hormone that tells us when to eat. When you’re sleep-deprived, your body generates more ghrelin, which can result in overeating. Leptin on the other hand, is the powerful ‘no’ hormone that tells us when to stop eating. When you’re sleep-deprived, your body generates considerably less Leptin, causing you to feel hungry more often. For this reason, it is imperative for everyone (particularly individuals who are trying to lose weight) to get adequate rest. Quick power-naps or catnaps work great to regulate hormone levels; because, the body uses the added rest to keep hormones in balance.
Now that we’ve discussed the primary risk factors and understand what we can do to decrease them, let’s take our knowledge one step further – by sharing what we know with others (at home, work, play, and within our social media circles) … all in an effort to make awareness work! Action and awareness are effective tools that help transition perspectives about health into partnerships with health-based initiatives that have a national and/or global impact. And it doesn’t have to necessarily stop there; no, we can do more in the weeks and months to come to learn more and share our knowledge with others. If you’re looking for ways you can make America heart-smart, look no further. As part of our personal effort to do more, the
In honor of Valentine’s Day, we hope you’ll take this message to heart, because you hold a special place in ours. Our team wishes you and your loved ones a very Happy Valentine’s and American Heart Month with positive vibes that pour StraighT From The HearT.
**For information on additional risk factors and preventive measures used to combat heart disease (i.e., dietary essentials, stress triggers and reduction, resources, references and abstracts documented by the National Library of Medicine), please visit http://bit.ly/TZelement4YourHeart, and become part of the conversation that puts your heart-health first.