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10 Ways You Can Help Prevent Heart Disease

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This week’s top 10 post is inspired by my stepfather who is recovering from open heart surgery.  It’s been very hard on him and my mom and we still have a long way to go. I feel so helpless.

Writing this is one way I’m dealing.

10. Don’t just know what’s good for you … EAT IT! The first tip on the AHA website is to choose a healthy eating plan. I have no doubt there are some people out there that don’t know what that means but I’m going to bet if you are reading this, you do. Of course you should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and choose foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars and sweeteners. Fiber is good. Whole grains. Fish. Nuts. Beans. Seeds.  You know you should limit sugar-sweetened beverages. The problem isn’t that we don’t know, it’s that we don’t put into practice what we know. Listen, it’s not about eating “perfectly,” it’s about eating better. Just remember making small changes is better than doing nothing at all.

9. Get off the darn couch! As someone who used to LOATHE exercise in any form I speak from experience when I say just make an effort to walk. Take the stairs. Park far away. Look for active leisure activities. I sit ALL DAY for work and I’m going to bet many of you do to. We don’t realize how inactive we are because we are tired from working, but unfortunately that work is normally inactive. I know it’s hard but once you start to make the effort to simply move your body more you realize how awesome it is. My advice is to not worry about how many minutes of this or that… just MOVE! Then let inertia take over. It worked for me.

8. Get to know your doctor. I think we need a complete culture shift about going to the doctor. Maybe I’m the only one but when I go in for my well visit I always get this “why are you here” vibe. It’s like nurses and doctors don’t want or expect to see you until you’re sick. BUT if we all start to go for physicals regularly, if we all take time out of our busy schedules NOW, then maybe we won’t have too see them too much later. Prevention and early detection are important!

7. Smoking? Come on! Listen, we all have our vices and part of me thinks in a small way vices can be healthy. We need to feel like we are living life, indulging, enjoying the simple things that give us pleasure. However, if you are smoking regularly (like SOME people I know) it’s time to make a change. Do some soul searching and really look at what that cigarette is doing for you and find other ways to meet that need. It’s just not worth it.

6. Create a Healthy Culture. I love seeing families take walks to the park by my house or the 2 cyclists who ride around my neighborhood on the weekends. When I take my son to his indoor soccer games, the old bucks playing tennis make me smile. The other day (when we actually had nice weather) I saw a father throwing pitches to his son in their back yard. I don’t care how you do it — walk, play, plant a garden, go for a hike — but help be a part of a healthy culture.

5. Keep Stress in Check. This is much easier said than done, but you can control how much stress is in your life. Try to remember things don’t necessarily happen TO you — they just happen.  How you react to them is about the only thing in your control. So take a lot of deep breaths, remember you always have something to grateful for and do your best to go with the flow. Life will never be perfect so there’s no use stressing when it isn’t.

4. Scale or no Scale, Watch Your Weight. I don’t think you need to become completely preoccupied with a certain number on the scale — I mean you guys know my history with this — but you should be in tune with your body enough to know whether or not you are starting to pack on the pounds, especially as you age.

3. Do You Snore? I didn’t know this but according to the AHA, One in five adults has at least mild sleep apnea, a condition that causes pauses in breathing during sleep. If not properly treated, sleep apnea can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

2. Know the Warning Signs. Did you know that women can have different heart attack symptoms than men? These are the signs the AHA have on their website:

  1. Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  2. Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  3. Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  4. Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
  5. As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

1. Eat Chocolate!  I’m kidding. Boy, how I wish chocolate was a calorie-free cure-all for everything! In all seriousness, the best way to prevent heart disease is to do all of these things listed and know your family history. All the men in my stepfather’s family have had heart issues. My grandfather had heart disease. The Husband’s family also has a history. His 37-year-old female cousin recently had a heart attack.

Newsflash: I’m 37!

I may have started this blog because I wanted to lose weight but what I’ve gained is a completely different perspective about my health and as I age that is becoming more and more important to me.  

All of that heart talk being said, I hit the chocolate a little too much tonight. It was my way of dealing with stress. Guess I’ll always be a work in progress.

Get better Grandpa. We miss you.

Screen shot 2014-02-25 at 10.47.08 PM

Note: All heart prevention tips adapted from the AHA website.



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Discussion

There are 9 comments so far.

    nancyabc

    February 26, 2014

    It is kind of scary how much damage we can do to our heart just by sitting.
    I just read this week about a new study that said it really gets worse for people after they reach the age of 60. I know this winter has made a big difference in my health. Sorry I am not as motivated as you to get outside in this extreme cold this year but my legs are paying for it!
    I am waiting for Spring and walking around Big Box stores.
    Hope your stepfather is doing well soon.

      RoniNoone

      February 26, 2014

      Thanks he’s dong better!

    Jeri Lyn

    February 26, 2014

    Prayers & good thoughts for a quick recovery for your stepfather. Wishing all of you well in this stressful time.
    Remember to take care of yourself, so that you’ll be able to take care of others.

      RoniNoone

      February 26, 2014

      Thank you!

    Dukebdc

    February 26, 2014

    Wishing your stepdad a steady recovery. I don’t do this to change the subject, but I’m weighing in here since it is Wednesday and this is my way to approach #4 on your list. :)

    HW: 148
    CW: 131.8
    GW: 120-125
    HT: 5’2″
    Age: 35

    Still sitting 6 pounds over where I’d like to be. Truth is, I’m still in the healthy range for my height at this weight, and it’s fairly easy for me to maintain here, so maybe I need some reevaluation. Unfortunately, I am sedentary most of the time, so I would feel better about a # in the 130s if I knew I was getting enough activity. The more I put off exercise, the more vigilant I get about my food and weight numbers.

    And if I can get on a soapbox here, I agree with you that smoking is really detrimental to your health. However, just like nagging your spouse to put down the Twinkies doesn’t encourage them to lose weight, treating smokers like social pariahs doesn’t encourage them to quit. I am not a smoker, but I have several smokers in my family. Hearing how nasty non-smokers can be to smokers makes me sad – my relatives are not bad people because they have a bad habit.

      RoniNoone

      February 26, 2014

      I’m right there with you on the weight thing. Sometimes we just need to reevaluate what’s important: A few pounds or our sanity. :)

      As for the smokers, I relate but that doesn’t mean we can’t worry about them and try to help them quit. There is no question. It’s killing them.

    Robin Elam Wiergacz

    February 27, 2014

    good advice, but please don’t assume we sit at our job, many women like myself are on our feet all day long, everyday. Hope your Dad gets better quickly.

      RoniNoone

      February 27, 2014

      Don’t mean to offend, my mom was a nurse, I now how many people have active jobs. I’m just trying to relate to those that don’t. Plus most people with desk jobs have the time to read blogs. It’s hard to deny when my traffic spikes during the 9-5 work day.

    Martha Glantz

    February 27, 2014

    First off my thoughts and prayers are with your Stepfather for a speedy and full recovery. Heart disease is no joke and these 10 pointers are good to remember.
    A year ago on Super Bowl Sunday I was at a party and was feeling chest discomfort. First I chalked it up to eating some food I hadn’t been eating (had already lost 50 pounds and was moving every day!) but it didn’t go away. And I was feeling lightheaded AND I’d had an upset stomach and diarrhea that week. Had my partner drive me to the ER (it was only 1/2 mile away).
    Imagine my surprise to be told I was having a heart attack!?
    They whisked me by ambulance to the nearest cath lab where I was told I was lucky….only one very small artery was blocked and it was cleared out and there was no damage.
    Now I take the AHA health reminders very seriously. Started in on cardiac rehab last March and not get to the gym 3-4 times/week for cardio and weights. I actually enjoy it. My way of eating has totally changed and I love it.
    My weight is down another 25 + pounds and I feel great.
    Even with a desk job I find time to get out and walk during the day in 10 – 20 minute spurts.

    It all adds up. BTW I also eat a square of dark chocolate most days since that is good for the heart.

    Very happy to see that you are supporting the AHA.