As the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, heart disease is commonly discussed with the older, adult population. However, the conditions that lead to heart disease are happening at younger ages causing heart disease to develop in younger adults increasingly more often. Heart care and prevention is important for everyone. Being aware of what causes heart disease, while also developing heart healthy habits with your family, are both great forms of defense.
What can you do to take control?
Make heart-healthy choices in your diet. Diets high in trans-fat, saturated fat, and added sugar increase the risk for heart disease. Sodium (or salt) increases blood pressure, and most Americans eat too much of it, including children. Pay attention to the nutrition labels on food packaging. A food’s sodium content is something that is clearly listed. By replacing foods high in sodium with fresh fruits and vegetables, you can help lower your blood pressure. In fact, only 1 in 10 adults is getting enough fruits and vegetables each day.
Other helpful ideas to use with children include focusing on the quality of what your child is eating and that they eat until they are full. In other words, no clean-plate club. Quality over quantity. Remember to use kid-sized portions. A good rule to keep in mind is one tablespoon of food per age of the child for each meal option (about two or three foods). It’s also good to serve one meal for your entire family. Plan meals to include at least one thing that everyone likes. Try healthier options for celebrations, and instead of rewarding children with food, give verbal praise or hugs for good behavior. Finally, if you have some particularly picky eaters, get creative to make fruits and vegetables fun. Try using unsweetened raisins or small pieces of fruit to make faces on healthy foods.
Stay active. Physical activity helps keep the heart and blood vessels healthy. Yet, only 1 in 5 adults meets the physical activity guidelines of getting 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity. In fact, more than 1 in 3 American adults – and nearly 1 in 6 under the age of 18 is obese. Carrying around this extra weight puts stress on the heart. It can also contribute to more serious conditions like diabetes. This disease causes sugar to build up in the blood, causing damage to blood vessels and nerves that help control the heart muscle. Simply taking an evening walk as a family or playing an active game together in the back yard each night can help everyone meet their daily cardio goal.
Don’t smoke. Smoking damages blood vessels in our body and can cause heart disease. Despite the decades of health warnings, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. More than 37 million U.S. adults currently smoke on a regular basis, and thousands of young people start smoking every day. If you don’t smoke – fabulous! Don’t start and be sure to talk with your older children about the dangers of smoking as well. If you do smoke, learn more about our smoking cessation services. Quitting smoking takes a lot of emotional energy and can be very stressful. Let our qualified staff help develop an individualized quitting plan.
Be consistent in managing any current health conditions. Millions of Americans (of all ages) have high blood pressure, and about half don’t have it under control. Having uncontrolled high blood pressure is one of the biggest risks for heart disease, as well as other harmful conditions including stroke. Work with your healthcare team to manage conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Be honest and work together with your provider. Take medications as prescribed.
Heart disease can often be prevented when people make healthy choices and manage their health conditions. By making some simple changes to your family diet and exercise habits, you can help keep your family on the heart-healthy track. Set attainable goals and try to be consistent. Modeling these behaviors will also help your kids form these great habits. When communities, health professionals, and families work together, living heart healthy is possible.
Medical Associates is proud to provide advanced heart care that’s close to home. All of our cardiologists are board certified and bring many years of exceptional cardiac care to the community, making it the most complete and up-to-date cardiology program in the Tri-State area. Medical Associates also offers the only cardiothoracic surgeons in the area, and we have the experience and expertise to perform a full array of complex surgeries and techniques. These departments work closely with Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology, and others to provide comprehensive medical management, diagnosis, and treatment of patients.