Posted by: Chelsea Hampton | February 20, 2013

Cardiovascular Disease – Tips for Prevention (Part I)

Although cardiovascular disease is highly prevalent and the leading cause of death in the U.S., that does not necessarily mean that it’s inevitable. There are multiple risk factors that are within one’s control, and there are plenty of steps that can be implemented to help reduce risk starting now!

blood pressure cuff

Get regular health screenings.

It is important to keep up with routine health screenings and know personal health stats. Screenings can help detect serious underlying issues such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both of which are risk factors for heart problems and stroke. Consult a healthcare professional to know your numbers and ideal ranges for blood pressure and cholesterol. Depending on risk factors and current level of health, a diabetes screening may be necessary as well. Health screenings are a great step in determining where one is at and what lifestyle modifications may be needed, and provides an opportunity to formulate an optimal health plan with a healthcare provider.

tape measure

Maintain a healthy weight.

While ideal weight definitely ranges from person to person, high body fat content puts one at risk for a host of health problems. Certain tests can be more informative than others as well; body mass index (BMI) and the number on the scale are only parts of the overall picture regarding health and body composition. A person may be within normal weight and BMI ranges but still have a high body fat percentage, and conversely, a muscular athlete may be in great shape but be over his/her weight and BMI range. Use caution with simple body weight and BMI calculators, as these may not incorporate other important variables. Other calculation methods can be particularly helpful, such as actual body measurements (particularly waist circumference), and certain body fat screenings. Maintaining a healthy weight revolves around more than simply a single number, and there are multiple components involved in this process. Visiting with a healthcare professional can help in obtaining accurate baseline testing and determining individualized goals.

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Choose to eat healthier.

This tip goes hand in hand with the previous tip, as well as the following, and these tips can really be viewed as working together in harmony to promote optimal health. While making healthier choices can be challenging, incorporating healthier options over time does get easier and the health benefits make it very worthwhile. Eating healthier is also about more than simply counting calories; healthy eating is about making a conscious effort to incorporate nutrient-rich foods, meeting your individual nutritional needs, and gaining as much knowledge as possible about personal health. Including more fruits and vegetables, whole-grains, lean protein options, and reducing intake of saturated and trans fats, are all important elements of a heart-healthy diet. Listed below are some helpful websites on healthy eating and dietary needs, and it may be beneficial to talk with a registered dietician (RD) as well.

– Nutrition.gov. http://www.nutrition.gov.

– ChooseMyPlate.gov. USDA. http://www.choosemyplate.gov.

– American Heart Association: Getting Healthy: Nutrition Center. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/Nutrition-Center_UCM_001188_SubHomePage.jsp.

guy on bike

Get physical exercise regularly.

Current guidelines recommend getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week. This duration can even be broken up into smaller segments throughout the day, and it does not have to be particularly strenuous. Similarly to maintaining a healthy weight and eating plan, a physical activity plan should meet individual needs and ability. More information on physical activity needs can be found at the following page from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/adults.html. It is advised to consult a healthcare professional before beginning an exercise program, especially if recovering from an injury or illness.

Information obtained and adapted from the following sources:

– American Heart Association: Lifestyle Changes. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/PreventionTreatmentofHeartAttack/Lifestyle-Changes_UCM_303934_Article.jsp.

– Mayo Clinic: Health Information: Heart Disease: 5 medication-free strategies to help prevent heart disease.  http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-disease-prevention/WO00041.

This information is provided courtesy of the Wyoming AgrAbility Project. For more information, visit our website or call toll-free at 866-395-4986.

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