Stillwater News Press

Health & Environment

February 15, 2014

Live Well 02-16-14

Diet, exercise keys to healthy hearts

This time of the year, hearts are everywhere. Stores are complete with little hearts full of chocolate, teddy bears squeezing hearts, little candies in the shape of hearts with messages like “Call me” or “Be mine,” and little cut-out heart valentines made by your 4-year-old plastered on the fridge. Hearts are meant to represent love and affection — but it is also in this month, and every month for that matter, that hearts should represent health.

During February, the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement works to beat heart disease. Instead of hearts representing health, heart disease is the number one killer of women, and more deadly than all forms of cancer. Each year, cardiovascular diseases claim the lives of nearly half a million women — this averages to almost one death per minute. Heart disease is responsible for 1 in 3 deaths among women each year, while breast cancer is responsible for 1 in 35 deaths among women each year.

Symptoms of a heart attack that are often hard to recognize in women include shortness of breath, back pain, jaw pain and nausea. Women should trust their intuition and contact their doctor or go to the emergency room if they are not feeling normal or experiencing the symptoms listed above.

With the right information, heart disease can be treated and possibly prevented in women. Although some risk factors are out of one’s control, many are lifestyle changes and within one’s control. A staggering 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease. Choose to reduce your personal risk for heart disease and make the changes that will make your heart healthy.

• Don’t smoke

• Manage your blood sugar

• Get your blood pressure under control

• Lower your cholesterol

• Know your family history

• Stay active

• Maintain a healthy weight

• Eat healthy

The secret weapon for preventing heart disease is through a healthy diet and regular physical activity — which according to the American Heart Association can reduce the risk of heart disease by as much as 80 percent. Do not let this month only be about hearts full of chocolate in the grocery aisle; instead, make the lifestyle changes necessary to assure a healthy heart for a lifetime. A healthy heart and a full life is the best Valentine’s gift you can give.

Choose today to live a full, healthy life. Choose to live well.

Becky Taylor is a prevention specialist with Oklahoma State University Prevention Programs.

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