5 things we need to know about our heart health

Column by Andrea W. Doray
Posted 1/29/19

Before my coronary angiogram last year – a procedure that uses a long flexible tube to deliver dyes into my arteries, making them visible on X-rays – I hadn’t really given much thought to my …

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5 things we need to know about our heart health

Posted

Before my coronary angiogram last year – a procedure that uses a long flexible tube to deliver dyes into my arteries, making them visible on X-rays – I hadn’t really given much thought to my heart health. That’s all changed now and I’m paying attention.

So should you … and there’s no better time than February, American Heart Month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. In fact, one in four deaths is caused by heart disease every year.

American Heart Month helps increase awareness of – and thus help to prevent – this #1 killer. Additionally, the American Heart Association’s (AHA) “You’re the Cure” initiative helps us as individuals make a difference by speaking out for policies that help build healthier communities and healthier lives.

For example, as of May 2018, 38 states and the District of Columbia require CPR training for high school graduation. Colorado is currently without such legislation but makes grants available for schools to offer CPR training. Why is this important? Young people trained in CPR then increase the number of people capable of helping to save others’ lives.

I’m committed to making healthy changes to lower my own risk. While I was working with a nutrition clinic a few years ago, I helped develop this set of five heart-healthy tips, using information from the AHA’s “Go Red for Women” program:

1. Slow down on sugar. Studies show that people are more than twice as likely to die from heart disease if they take in more than 25 percent of their calories from sugar, compared to those whose diets include less than 10 percent added sugar. (Added sugar is everywhere – check those nutrition labels!)

2. Fill up on fiber. The average American eats about 15 grams of fiber per day, but we should strive to eat a minimum of 25 to 35 grams a day to increase our heart health … try whole grains such as quinoa and oats.

3. Go for good fats. Yes, there are healthy fats, such as those in olive oil, avocadoes, almonds and salmon. We need to be sensible about how much we consume because these foods can be high in calories, but we can enjoy some healthy fats every day.

4. Commit to stop smoking. Quitting is a challenge all on its own, but smoking is a significant factor that increases the risk of heart disease and stroke by two to four times. Worse, women who smoke have a 25 percent higher risk compared to men.

5. Wake up and walk. No one disputes the positive effects of exercise, but did you know you get heart-healthy benefits from just 30 minutes a day? Walking is the easiest way to begin … and it’s free! Studies show that for every hour of walking, our life expectancies may increase by two hours. With the plenitude of sunny and warm-enough days even in our Colorado winter months, we can all start now.

Fortunately for me, the angiogram showed that I don’t have blockages, or even significant narrowing, of the arteries in my heart. I have enough continuing symptoms, though, that I’m doing additional screening in February … I’ll let you know how that goes.

In the meantime, see you on the trails!

Andrea Doray is a writer who believes local advocacy is crucial to healthy communities. You can learn more about how to participate with “You’re the Cure” at yourethecure.org. Contact Andrea at a.doray@andreadoray.com.

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