A Valentine for All Seasons

The heart is a popular symbol for the month of February, but this isn’t the only time of year we should be focused on the heart.  Heart health is important for a long, active life with your children.  This year, give your kids a valentine that will last a lifetime.  Below are some questions and answers that provide key information to maintaining optimal heart health…

Q: What is heart disease?
A: The condition termed heart disease is most often coronary artery disease, a disease affecting the heart, caused by blockages in the arteries that feed the heart. Cholesterol in the bloodstream causes plaque to build up and slow the blood flow to the heart. Over time, the heart can become damaged from the blockages. A heart attack occurs when the blockage prevents the heart muscle from functioning properly, killing a portion of the heart muscle.

Q: How do I improve my heart health?
A: Lifestyle choices are vital in maintaining a healthy heart. Simple choices including healthy food choices, aerobic activities, stress-relief, not smoking and education can contribute to overall health. Don’t be afraid to start slow and set reachable goals. Small improvements can lead to healthy habits. Educate yourself so you will know the best choices to make.

Q: Some food choices are confusing. How do I know what to look for?
A: Be aware of serving size, the type of fats, sodium, carbohydrates and calories. It’s best to avoid processed foods and choose fresh, healthy options in a variety of colors.

How to read food labels: http://www.centura.org/body.cfm?id=690
Dietary fats explained: http://www.centura.org/body.cfm?id=690

Q: What is the right amount of exercise for a healthy heart?
A: The American Heart Association recommends 150 hours of moderate exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise. An easy goal to remember is 30 minutes/day, 5 days/week. The time can be broken down into smaller segments of 10 or 15 minutes of exercise, so take the stairs and park a little further from the building to achieve your goal.

Q: What qualifies as exercise?
A: You can count any activity that raises your heart rate and gets your body moving. It is ideal to reach a fitness level that can maintain 30 continuous minutes of aerobic exercise including some weight lifting and stretching to help maintain bone health and build lean muscle mass.

Q: Can I reverse the damage already done to my heart?
A: It is never too late to improve heart health. Damage can be reversed and lives can be saved – it is always better to make positive changes than to allow the poor condition to deteriorate. It is important to have a full physical examination to reveal heart health and help track improvements. A physician can help you design an appropriate health plan.

Q: Heart disease runs in my family. How can I fight against genetic predispositions?
A: Genetics are a determinant in heart health, but it is always in your best interest to maintain a healthy lifestyle and do what you can to prevent heart disease. Be sure to talk with your physician about ways to best combat your situation.

Q: How do I know if my heart is healthy?
The first step in the fight against heart disease is prevention. Testing can reveal numbers including LDL and HDL cholesterol levels and blood pressure, which will help you gauge your overall heart health. Get tested regularly to make sure your numbers are in a safe zone. Your physician can help explain what your individual test results indicate and help you design a personalized plan to maintain a healthy heart.

Cholesterol Levels
HDL “good cholesterol” is ideally 60 mg/dL or above. 
LDL “bad cholesterol” is optimal at less than 100 mg/dL.

Blood Pressure Numbers

For most adults, the top number (systolic blood pressure) should be less than 120.
The bottom number (diastolic blood pressure) should be less than 80.

Centura’s Assess Your Health: http://adamdemo.convergencehealth.com/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=664&id=648

 Help your kids develop heart-healthy habits now!

Alliance for a Healthier Generation:  http://www.healthiergeneration.org/parents.aspx 
Talking Health With Your Kids: http://www.healthiergeneration.org/parents.aspx?id=1884

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