Know your risk, reduce your risk: Take steps to prevent heart attack |

Know your risk, reduce your risk: Take steps to prevent heart attack

Mary Beth TeSelle
Special to The Union
Healthy lifestyle concept, clean food good health dietary in heart dish with sporty gym aerobic body exercise workout training class equipment, weight scale and sports shoes in fitness center
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Support for those affected by heart disease

Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital offers a support group designed for heart patients and their caregivers. The group is dedicated to improving the quality of life for heart patients and their families through education and peer-to-peer support. All we are welcome. Group meets the first Monday of every month from 3 – 4:30 p.m. in the SNMH Outpatient Center. Next meeting is Monday, March 2. Call 530-274-6103 for more information.

Every 40 seconds, someone in our country will have a heart attack. The American Heart Association says that equals nearly one million heart attacks annually – 720,000 first-time attacks and 335,000 recurrent attacks. About 14 percent of people who have a heart attack will die from it.

February is a National Heart Month, a time when adults of all ages are encouraged to become familiar not only with heart disease and its warning signs, but also with their personal risk factors.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and a major cause of disability. Fortunately, there are steps we can all take to reduce our risk for heart disease and heart attack.

First, it is important to understand the factors that can put us at greater risk for heart disease but which can’t be changed. These include age (risk increases as we age); gender (certain risk factors are more serious for one gender); race (African Americans and South Asians have higher risk); and family history (risk increases if close family members who had heart disease).

Still, the American Heart Association points out that one of the biggest contributors to heart disease is a lack of commitment to a heart healthy lifestyle – something we can all change.

The first step toward a healthier lifestyle for anyone who smokes is to quit. Research has shown that smoking increases heart rate, tightens major arteries, and can cause an irregular heart rhythm, all of which makes your heart work harder. Smoking also raises blood pressure, which increases the risk of stroke.

Also important in the battle against heart disease is what you eat. A healthy diet is one of the best weapons you have to fight cardiovascular disease.

The food you eat (and the amount) also can affect other controllable risk factors: cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and weight.

Focus on choosing nutrient-rich foods that have vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients but are lower in calories. Plan your meals to emphasize vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Aim to include low fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, heart healthy oils, and nuts. Limit sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red meats.

The AHA also recommends that men and women of every age get some type of physical activity in every day.

We know from many studies that at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity can help lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and keep your weight at a healthy level.

When it comes to exercise, research has shown that something is better than nothing. If you’re inactive now, start out slow. Even a few minutes at a time may offer some health benefits.

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.

Finally, understand that experiencing too much stress in your life not only affects you mentally, but also physically.

To learn more about your personal risk factors for heart attack and heart disease, talk to your doctor.

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