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You could say the heart is pretty popular during the month of February. With Valentine’s Day coming up, you can find them just about anywhere, but they’re always related to the theme of love. From elementary school children decorating their classrooms with construction paper hearts, to the wives receiving heart shaped jewelry from her spouses—hearts, and specifically love, are all around us this month. While love is an amazing aspect of life, focusing solely on that does the heart quite a disservice. Without your heart, you wouldn’t be able to love at all, because, well…you wouldn’t be able to do anything. The heart is a truly remarkable component of the human body, and when it comes to keeping it healthy, love isn’t all you need. Friday, February 3rd marks the 15th Annual National Wear Red Day; a day when we shift our focus, and educate ourselves and others on the number one killer of women—heart disease.
The statistics involving women and heart disease may shock you, especially if you’ve been under the impression that heart disease is a bigger concern for men than it is for women, which, in fact, is a common misconception. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease killed 289,758 women in 2013, which equals out to 1 in every 4 female deaths. Additionally, the American Heart Association has reported that, in 2013, heart disease took the life of 1 woman every 80 seconds. This amount is equal to the female deaths caused from diabetes, chronic lower respiratory disease, and cancer combined! With numbers this high, it makes you wonder why this isn’t a more prevalent topic of discussion among women.
If you have a career in the healthcare field, make it a priority to educate not only your female patients, but your female friends, colleagues, and family members as well on the necessity of heart health. Break the misconception that heart disease is primarily a man’s issue, and help to shrink those devastating statistics with the information below.
There are several risk factors that increase your chances of being affected by heart disease.
The three most crucial risk factors are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. These are so widespread in the United States, that 47% of all Americans have at least one of them. Although there are some risk factors, like your family history, that cannot be controlled, making changes in your daily habits to eliminate the risk factors that you can control could mean the difference between life and death.
Lifestyle Changes that Make a BIG Difference for Your Heart
Fortunately, there are things that everyone can do to decrease their risk of heart disease, but a quick fix is not one of them. These lifestyle changes may not always be fun, but consistently incorporating them into your daily life just might save it.
Increasing your physical activity is a must for a healthy heart! For nurses and other medical professionals, having a lot of movement throughout your working hours is a definite plus! For those who remain sedentary at a desk for the majority of their workday, making a conscious effort to get extra steps in each day is a great place to start. Utilizing a wristband pedometer to track your steps, and even your daily distance and calories, can be a great complement to your increasingly active lifestyle!
For your exercise regimen, the American Heart Association recommends getting at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise 5 days each week for overall cardiovascular health. For lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, they recommend 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise 3 or 4 times each week.
It’s never too late to start exercising. Even if the above recommendations are too difficult to manage at first, try slowly working up to it. Also, you don’t have to go at it alone! Find an exercise buddy to join you on your fitness journey. You can help hold each other accountable, and act as a support system, which can make a huge difference for your success and longevity! Remember, heart health is an issue for everyone, so the more people you get involved, the better!
Developing and sticking with healthy eating habits can help your overall health tremendously, but it’s especially important for a healthy heart! Certain fruits and vegetables are teeming with vitamins and nutrients that aid in cardiovascular health. Natural, whole-foods like fruits, vegetables, fish, and whole grains should be incorporated into your daily diet as much as possible! Try adding the food items below into your next grocery order.
When you add healthy eating habits as a lifestyle change, you are greatly benefiting yourself, as well as acting as a wonderful example for your patients, friends, and family.
Things You Can Do TODAY
As you embrace your lifestyle changes, don’t forget about the little things you can do today that make a big impact on your cardiovascular health. It can be as simple as picking up the phone to make that long overdue appointment. Make your cardiovascular health a priority today!
Ultimately, Valentine’s Day isn’t the only day this month that gets to lay claim to the heart. Today we wear red in remembrance of the women who have been victims of heart disease, and also to raise awareness for heart health! As we make our Valentine’s Day plans, and hear people around us obsessing with love, be a voice for National Wear Red Day, and an advocate for cardiovascular health. There are millions of women across the country and around the globe counting on it!
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