In the past ten years or so, deaths due to cardiovascular disease and strokes have dropped drastically. While those are good things, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done for the good of heart health in this country. Far too many people continue to smoke and far too many people continue to be obese. In fact, recent studies have shown that obesity will soon be a bigger health risk factor than even smoking.
Good Cardiovascular Health Starts With Behavioral Choices
Not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, in addition to getting the necessary amount of exercise (around thirty minutes each day), are activities that are crucial for cardiovascular heath.
Good Cardiovascular Health and the Important Health Exams That You Need.
Yearly exams that include blood pressure, A1C (a comprehensive test for blood sugar) and serum cholesterol levels should all be done. Kidney and liver function tests should also be completed if there are risk factors for these conditions as well.
The American Diabetic Association, the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Association have all focused on individual diseases in the past. This has changed now. Now, there is no focus on just a single disease. Instead the objective is to work toward a healthy lifestyle. Here are some tips for maintaining good cardiovascular health:
Smoking and Cardiovascular Health.
In the case of the adults, the faster that you quit smoking the more health benefits you will get. By stopping smoking you can restore your lung function quickly, and thus reduce your chances of developing heart disease, including lung disease. Second hand smoke is dangerous as well, therefore, if not for yourself, at least stop smoking for the sake of your family.
In the case of children, avoid smoking in the first place. However, if children are already smoking, it is not impossible to quit.
Healthy Weight and Good Cardiovascular Health.
Some doctors use the BMI for a guideline, others use hip to waist ratio. However, keep in mind that pear shape is more healthy than apple but overweight is not healthy regardless.
Children: the rate of childhood obesity is frightening to say the least. Children should be encouraged to eat small, healthy meals, never made to clean their plate and be banned from TV, computer or cell phones for at least one hour every day. Exercise gaming consoles might be a good exception to this rule however if they are actually actively participating.
It is easier to make these healthy changes as a group- for instance, a family game of freeze tag in the backyard is far more fun than having to do jumping jacks all alone in the basement. No one wants to feel like they are being left out and no one wants to feel like they are being punished. Imagine being the person, adult or child, who is sitting in front of a plate of steamed broccoli while everyone else is having Mama’s famous ooey-gooey lasagna and garlic bread. Little changes should be made, and should involve the whole family.
Guiding Principles for Cardiovascular Health
The American Heart Association has set up a chart with three levels: poor, intermediate and optimal health. The healthier your diet becomes and the healthier your other behaviors are the higher your score will be.
Heart Care and Diet: A Case Study
Shawn is going to the doctor for a regular check up. He is fifty years old, fairly trim and confident that nothing bad will be said at the office. What he finds out however is that his risk factors and heart score can be better. He still smokes (more than one cigarette, cigar or pipe per week) he drinks more than two drinks each evening and he does not exercise as much as he should. He also spends far too many nights up late.
While Shawn is not more than a few pounds overweight, he does have serious health issues that are revealed by his health exams. In addition to the cholesterol problem, his A1C shows that he is borderline diabetic and he is also showing some impeding kidney problems according to some other tests. The doctor orders even more tests which also reveal that his liver is not at its best health either, all of which can stress the heart. Finally, his blood pressure is quite high, and while the doctor is concerned he does not want to automatically put him on medications, hoping that he will be able to get back to a healthier lifestyle.
His job is a high pressure one and he may not be able to retire like he had planned. In addition to his health problems, Shawn and his wife are not getting along very well, another stress factor that can lead to poor cardiovascular health.
It is time for Shawn to make some major changes in his life. First, his doctor sends him to a nutritionist to discuss his diet. He also makes suggestions for exercise that he can try. The exercise helps him deal with the stress at work in a healthier way and he is not as cranky with his wife. They have found that they can talk better when they are walking laps at the high school track and the other day; she took his hand during the last lap.
In addition, Shawn has started using a protein supplement that will give him highly digestible protein in a small and convenient package. Each serving gives 25 grams of protein and 100 calories. There are a number of flavors so that Shawn can have variety- he uses this twice a day as a between meal snack. He is not hungry through the day and can focus on eating better foods without succumbing to the junk food traps that he used to fall for.
At a follow up visit, Shawn’s doctor is thrilled with the improvement that he has made in his life. His blood pressure is back to normal range as is his blood sugar readings. The potential kidney problems are no longer there and his liver function test is normal as well. His heart is pumping normally and he shows no signs of blockages or other problems.