Resolving to Care for Your Heart and Your Head

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Stay Heart & Stroke Conscious Throughout the Year 

Most people create a mental list of things they'd like to accomplish, like losing weight, getting ready for beach season, eating healthier, being more patient and spending more time with their families. How about changing it up this year? Make a resolution to be more heart and stroke conscious a year long and there are serious reasons why.

Heart Disease

More than 27 million Americans are living with heart disease, which is the number one cause of death in America. Heart disease refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels. Conditions include coronary artery disease, heart rhythm problems, heart attacks and heart defects.

Roughly one million people will have a heart attack this year. The numbers are shocking, but there is something you can do about it. According to the American Heart Association, 80 percent of heart attacks are preventable. There are several risk factors for heart disease, some can be controlled and some cannot.

Uncontrollable risk factors include sex, age, family history and race. Even though you cannot change your genetic background, by making healthier lifestyle changes, you can reduce your risk for heart disease. Controllable risk factors include smoking, cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity, diabetes and even stress.

Stroke

Now what about stroke? Every 40 seconds, someone in America has a stroke. A stroke occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is interrupted. An ischemic stroke is caused by a clot or blocked artery. A hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a ruptured artery where blood leaks into the brain. When blood flow is interrupted, the brain cells die in that area. Are you at risk for a stroke? Similar to heart disease, there are controllable risk factors for stroke. Making significant lifestyle changes and managing medical illnesses can decrease your risk for a stroke.

New Year's Resolutions

To prepare yourself to become heart and stroke conscious in 2012, you need to make a resolution to understand your risk factors for heart disease and strokes. By making healthy lifestyle choices, you can reduce your personal risk and help protect yourself from heart attacks and strokes.

  • Manage Medical Issues – It is important that you are properly managing and controlling your cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes. All three are risk factors for heart disease and stroke. You can control these issues through diet, exercise, weight management and possibly medication.
  • Eat a Balanced Diet – Eating more nutritious food that is low in salt, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and refined sugars will help you maintain a healthy weight. While you are lowering your intake of these items, you should increase your intake of food rich in vitamins and nutrients. Obesity can lead to diabetes and other serious medical conditions.
  • Exercise – People that don't work out have a higher risk of death and heart disease. It is recommended to exercise at least 30 minutes per day. Working out can also help lower stress.
  • Stop Smoking – Smoking is not only bad for your lungs, but for your entire body. The use of tobacco damages blood vessel walls, speeds up the clogging of arteries and raises blood pressure, doubling the risk of stroke.
  • Relax – Poorly controlled stress and anger can play a significant role in heart attacks and strokes. Learn how to manage your stress by setting realistic goals, relaxing and better managing your time.

Many of the risk factors for heart disease and stroke are the same. So becoming more heart and stroke conscious is easier than you'd think. Living better, eating well and exercising are not just common resolutions anymore. If followed throughout the year and adopted into your lifestyle, they will not only help you feel better, but they will keep you living longer.