February is Heart. Healthy. Month.

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When Cindy DeMarco had a heart attack, she was a fit 30-year-old training for the Marine Corps Marathon who had just received a perfect score on her military fitness test. Now 35, the FBI lawyer urges all women to recognize what statistically is their greatest health risk.

Heart disease is often a silent threat. Two-thirds of women and one-half of men who die of heart disease had no prior symptoms, according to Judelson. “It’s not something you can feel or see in a mirror.”

So being proactive is important. Know your risks and discuss them with your doctor. “You need to go to the doctor. You need to know what’s going on inside your body,” says Judelson (Weisenberger, 2013).

Some Risk factors include:
•Family history: A family history of early heart disease (under 55 for male relatives and especially female relatives under 65) is a strong predictor of your risk.
•Age. Your risk increases each year.
•Race. African-American women are at highest risk
•Diabetes. Diabetics are three to seven times more likely to die from heart disease. The number of people diagnosed with diabetes increases by 10 percent a year.
•Hypertension. High blood pressure doubles the risk of heart disease and heart failure.
•Elevated cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides. These three lipids act as a triple threat to your heart.

Thats all fine and dandy…but what does it matter to me? I’m a young adult, in college, and not very concerned about heart disease. Well…as it says above…being proactive is key! In 10, 20, or 30 years, you don’t want to be thinking, “I wish I would have taken better care of myself back then…”

Preventing heart disease begins with maintaining a healthy lifestyle and habits. Eating a well balanced diet mostly consisting of whole and natural foods, as well as exercising is a given. We all know that part. So what else can I do at this age?

*Control your cholesterol and triglyceride levels
Elevated cholesterol levels are associated with inflammation (which can lead to heart disease). So, if you haven’t had a fasting lipid profile done recently, ask you health care provider. I recommend having it checked at least once in your mid 20’s and monitored according to your risk factors.

*Control your blood pressure
normal blood pressure is 120/80. Even slightly elevated blood pressure increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. Exercising, nutrition, and stress management are all key to controlling your blood pressure.

*Eat right and if needed, take supplements
Without getting in to deep here, I’ll just say that a well balanced diet consists of whole natural foods such as meat, veggies, fruit, and dairy (if you tolerate it), while avoiding processed grains, sugars, and packaged foods. A high quality fish oil and multivitamin may also be important if your diet is lacking in nutrient dense foods.

*Exercise
At the very minimum get up a move! ANY activity is better than none. I know you’re all great at walking across campus! Short on time? Strength training will give you the most bang for your buck! It gets your heart rate up while building muscle and burning fat.

*DON’T SMOKE!
Just don’t do it. You know why. It’s terrible in so many ways.

For more information and details, check out http://www.active.com/nutrition/articles/celebrate-heart-health-month

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