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Published on January 06, 2015

7 strategies to beat back heart disease

By Aynsley Anderson, Lawrence Memorial Hospital

Cardiovascular (heart) disease is still the leading cause of death for Americans. With a new year beginning, resolve to do all that you can to maintain a healthy heart.

Aynsley Anderson, RN, Community Education Coordinator

Lawrence Memorial Hospital is a major sponsor of WellCommons.

The American Heart Association has identified seven important strategies to maintain and improve overall health, including heart health. Visit their website at heart.org for more information or to take a confidential quiz called My Life Check to help assess your own personal heart health.

The AHA Life’s Simple Seven:

Get active. Nearly 70 percent of Americans do not get the recommended amount of physical activity. Healthy adults should get a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderately vigorous aerobic activity, like brisk walking. To achieve weight loss or improve cardiovascular function, 300 minutes a week is recommended.

Control cholesterol. High cholesterol usually has no symptoms; a blood test is the only way to know your cholesterol levels. The AHA recommends that healthy adults with no heart disease risk factors have their cholesterol levels checked at least every five years. Talk with your healthcare provider as to how often you should have a fasting lipid (cholesterol) profile. A quick finger stick screening that measures only the total amount of blood cholesterol is offered monthly by LMH. Visit lmh.org for a schedule, cost and locations.

Eat better. A heart-healthy diet focuses on foods high in whole grain fiber, lean protein, and with lots of colorful fruits and vegetables. It limits foods high in saturated and trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars.

Manage blood pressure. High blood pressure (hypertension) is a major risk factor for stroke, heart and kidney disease. It, too, usually has no symptoms. Talk with your healthcare provider as to how often you should have your blood pressure checked.

Lose weight. More than two thirds of American adults are overweight, with one third considered obese. Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes, plus many other diseases. At supertracker.usda.gov, you will find a free tool to help you track food intake and activity, as well as weight loss information.

Reduce blood sugar. Diabetes is also a risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease. See your healthcare provider as to how often you should have your blood sugar level tested, and if it is elevated, whether you need prescription medication to help keep it under control. The LMH Diabetes Education Center has certified diabetes educators to help educate those with diabetes on successful management of their disease. A physician referral is required. On Wednesday, Jan. 28, from noon to 1:30 p.m., LMH will offer a free class for those with or at risk for prediabetes. Go to lmh.org for more information and to enroll. A free monthly support and education group for those with diabetes is offered on the second Wednesday at 6 p.m. with a new discussion topic each month.

Stop smoking. Smoking is considered the leading cause of premature death for Americans. Smoking can damage the entire circulatory system and significantly increase the risk for heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease. Smoking can also reduce good cholesterol (HDL), trigger heart arrhythmias and diminish lung capacity. Even nicotine from e-cigarettes or other forms of tobacco may damage heart cells and vessels. For free quit advice, contact the Kansas Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or KSquit.org.

If you want more information about cardiovascular disease including prevention, diagnosis and treatment information, or have your blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar tested, plan to attend the annual LMH Healthy Hearts Fair from 8 to10:30 a.m. Feb. 21. Visit lmh.org after Jan. 12 for more information on how to register for the low-cost lipid (cholesterol) profile blood test. Other screenings and information at this event are free.

Aynsley Anderson, MA, RN, is Community Education Coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, which is a major sponsor of WellCommons. She can be reached at aynsley.anderson@lmh.org.

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