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Smart Choices For a Healthy Heart

When asked what disease they fear most, most Americans would say cancer. But in fact, cancer deaths are on the steady decline. The American Cancer Society’s recent report states that deaths from cancer have dropped nearly 23% since in 21 years.

Released Thursday January 7, 2016

At the present time, cancer is the second leading cause of death nationally. So what’s first? Heart disease–it’s the leading cause of death for both men and women. Heart disease is a general term that means that the heart is not working normally. It describes a range of conditions; these include blood vessel diseases such as coronary artery disease, heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias), and congenital heart defects, among others.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the term cardiovascular disease generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke. About 2,150 Americans die each day from cardiovascular disease—that’s one every 40 seconds. Cardiovascular diseases claim more lives than all forms of cancer combined.

But there is some good news. Most heart disease is not congenital—it’s acquired. And because it starts later in life, frequently due to decisions we’ve made over the span of years, we have the power to do something about it. Many forms of heart disease can be prevented or treated with healthy lifestyle choices.

How to start? The key areas to focus on in preventing or reversing heart disease are diet, exercise, stress reduction, weight reduction, sleep quality and quantity, and if you smoke, quitting. If you are trying to prevent heart disease, moderate changes may be adequate. But if you’re trying to reverse it, more drastic action may be needed.

Dean Ornish, MD, saw marked improvement in patients who participated in his intensive program while waiting to undergo heart transplant surgery. “Our studies show that with significant lifestyle changes, blood heart and its ability to pump normally improve in less than a month, and the frequency of chest pains fell by 90% in that time,” Ornish said.

As with all medical conditions, it is best to discuss your unique case with your doctor, so together you can work out a plan suitable for you. But you can begin to make positive changes right now: Go Red for Women offers many tips for stress management and healthy eating.

How about an exercise routine? Exercise doesn’t mean you have to train for a triathlon. Recent studies question whether 30 minutes of moderate exercise offers as much benefit as an hour or more; it may be that doing more yields greater rewards. But even if more is better, begin by starting easy and increase as you’re able. All exercise will improve the condition of your heart.

The best option for your workout is the routine you’ll actually do; so if you feel unable to do 30 minutes or more all at once, or you don’t have that block of time, it’s fine to break up your routine into two or more sessions. Consistency is key. Having a workout partner, or even simply checking in with someone who will hold you accountable, helps keep you on track.

Use the Premium Diary to manage your heart-healthy plan. You can track medical data such as blood pressure readings, heart rate, respiration, oxygen saturation, weight, BMI, medications, sleep, stress levels, and test results. You can also track relevant lifestyle improvements such as physical activity, dietary choices, and more. You can even track your smoking quit plan. Plus, you can include additional notes, and store images such as EKGs and X-rays. The Diary gives you a unique 360-degree lifetime health view, allowing you to correlate all details over time that may impact your condition.

The free iOS Diary app syncs with Apple Health, so you can use your iPhone or Apple watch to bring Apple Health data right into your Diary, along with data from Bluetooth health devices. This puts managing heart health literally in the palm of your hand.

While at first it may seem too difficult or constraining to embrace a significant lifestyle change – one that probably includes holding yourself to a stricter diet and exercise plan – the payoff is great. You’ll gain the strength, flexibility, and energy to do more now, and for years to come. You’ll decrease risk of illness and injury, and add years to your life. And that’s liberating.


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