Expert advice on maintaining muscle, heart, brain, skin, bones, and mind
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. Fortunately, plenty of research has been conducted on its causes and how it can be prevented. Here are a few tips on how to keep your ticker’s best interests at heart.
Listen to your mother. Eat your fruits and vegetables while limiting intake of saturated fat and trans fats. Choose carbohydrates rich in dietary fiber: beans, oats, root vegetables, and whole grains. Consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium daily. And don’t forget the potassium.
“Most people don’t have to avoid specific foods, unless you have a problem,” says Dr. W. Douglas Weaver, head of cardiology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. “I think the most important thing is just mainly trying to maintain your weight.”
Stay active. The Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise for adults most days of the week.
Be a quitter. “If you smoke, stop,” Weaver says. “Michigan’s smoking rate is still really high compared to many other states. Quitting reduces the instances of heart disease very quickly.”
Drink. But only in moderation, particularly if you’re younger. Alcohol provides few health benefits until middle age, when men older than 45 and women older than 55 may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by tipping back a glass (just one!) a day.
Don’t keep the doctor away. “Just a simple, general examination from your primary-care physician — talking and doing a couple of tests — can determine whether you have any issues, and can give you guidance,” Weaver says.
He, along with the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, recommends yearly blood-pressure screenings for adults. “Just because it was normal when you were 25 doesn’t mean it will be when you’re 55.”
Check it out. Get your cholesterol checked at least every five years. In addition, men should begin regular screenings for lipid disorders at 35 and women should begin at 45, as long as they’re not at increased risk for coronary heart disease for other reasons. In that case, screenings should begin at 20.
Pop a pill. Men over 45 should talk with their doctor about taking aspirin to reduce the risk of heart attack.
Stay in school. A 2008 CDC study found that as educational level increased, the percentages of adults with heart disease and hypertension decreased. Those who obtained at least a bachelor’s degree were less likely to smoke than those who hadn’t.
Read the signs. If you experience pain or pressure sensation in the chest during exercise that goes away a few minutes after stopping, or an unexplained shortness of breath, Weaver says, see your doctor right away. These could be the first signs of blocked arteries.
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