Begin at home, where your heart is, to eat healthy and improve your lifestyle

04/20/2012  | 

A cardiovascular disease is any disease that causes problems with the heart or blood vessels. Cardiovascular diseases, also known as CVDs, are the number-one cause of death in the world. The World Health Organization says that by 2030, 23 million people will die from CVDs. Most of these deaths will be due to heart attacks and strokes, both of which are CVDs.

In 2000, some groups thought people needed to know more about these killer diseases. So World Heart Day was started that year.

World Heart Day 2012 focuses on families.

Every Sept. 29, World Heart Day works to teach people that CVDs are the world's leading cause of death.

Each year, members and partners of the World Heart Federation organize public talks, health testing, heart walks, runs, concerts, and sporting events around the world to raise awareness of CVDs. Check your local newspaper or community website, and you'll probably find an event in your community.

Here are some facts from the World Health Organization about Americans:

·         More than 67% of American adults are overweight or obese.

·         About 32% of U.S. children ages 2 to 19 are overweight or obese.

·         Between 1971 and 2004, U.S. women took in 22% more calories than before 1971. During that same time, men ate 10% more calories. The increase was blamed on larger portion sizes at meals, as well as higher levels of starches, refined grains and sugars.

The increase in CVDs has other reasons, too. More tobacco use, less exercise, and less healthy diets are all part of the problem.

This year's World Heart Day is focused on families' risk of heart disease and stroke. World Heart Day is a great time to take charge of your family's heart health.

Remember: At least 80% of heart disease and stroke deaths can be avoided.

Help your family live "heart-healthier."

The World Heart Federation wants to help you make healthy changes.

Here are four ways to help you and your family enjoy better heart health:

1.     Make your home "smoke-free"

Stop smoking tobacco in your home. It will help you, and help your children's heart health. To help someone in your house stop smoking, try this: for every cigarette a person smokes, he or she has to do extra chores.

2.     Stock your home with healthy food options

Start the day with a piece of fruit. Instead of buying lunch, make it at home. It's easier to make healthy lunch choices when you put together your lunch at home. Make evening meals healthy, too. Each meal should contain at least two to three servings of vegetables.

3.     Be active

Try keeping your family's TV time to less than two hours a day. Get off the sofa and get outside. Plan some outdoor fun for your family, like bicycling or taking long walks together.

4.     Know your numbers

Make sure your body is in great shape inside as well as outside. Visit a doctor or clinic to learn your blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels. These numbers help show your CVD risk. From there, you can work to make your levels better.

Know the signs of heart problems.

Sometimes, even the healthiest people can have heart problems. Some CVDs run in the family. Some come from birth defects. So, you and your family should always be ready. You need to know the warning signs of heart attack and stroke.

If you or someone in your family feels these warning signs, get help right away. More than 70% of all heart or breathing emergencies happen at home. Most times, a family member is present and can help the victim.

Here are the signs of a heart attack:

·         Chest discomfort, like squeezing or pain in the middle of the chest

·         Discomfort and or pain that spreads to other areas of the upper body like one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

·         Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort

Here are the signs of a stroke:

·         Sudden weakness of the face, arm, or leg, most often on one side of the body

·         Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding

·         Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes

·         Sudden trouble walking

·         Dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

·         Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

Know who's at risk for heart disease.

As we said, you may be at risk for CVDs based on your family's history. But you can also be at risk because of the way you live. The World Heart Federation lists the following risk factors. The good news is, if you and your family work together, many of these can be reversed.

·         High blood pressure is the single biggest risk factor for a stroke. It can also cause heart attacks. High blood pressure can be prevented and treated. But only if you know you have it. So get regular checkups from your doctor. And stick to the management plan your doctor gives you.

·         High cholesterol also raises the risk of heart disease and stroke. You can lower your cholesterol levels with a healthy diet. You can also exercise and take medicine.

·         Tobacco use, whether you smoke or chew, boosts your risk of heart disease. The risk is even higher if you started smoking when you were young. When you stop using tobacco, you can lower your risk of CVDs.

·         People who don't move around have a 50% greater risk of heart disease and stroke. They're also more likely to get diabetes. Besides making you twice as likely to get some kind of CVD, Type 2 diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

·         A diet with too much saturated fat also raises your risk of heart disease and stroke. Poor diets cause about 31% of coronary heart disease and 11% of strokes worldwide.

So make this World Heart Day one you and your family remember as the day you started showing your love for each other by making your hearts healthier. It will make your lives happier, too.

This and other wellness tips and articles can be found on the Healthy Living section of
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