Be ‘heart smart’ for healthy living

Published 12:32 am Thursday, October 29, 2015

First, some sobering statistics.  About 2,150 Americans die each day from heart disease, one every 40 seconds.  The American Heart Association reports 610,000 lives are lost each year to heart disease, making it the #1 killer.

Good heart health should begin at birth, unfortunately, many folks wait until that first “cardiac event”.

Parents and caregivers are essential decision-makers when it comes to the nutrition, physical activity and health needs of their children. Help your child develop healthy habits early in life that will bring lifelong benefits.

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We are bombarded by ads about how delicious fat/sugar/salt laden food is.  And you know what?  It is.  I am not going to tell you never eat that junk.  I will tell you, eat healthy 90% of the time and you may have an occasional treat.  I do not believe in rewarding with food, especially bad food.  The idea is moderation and not to junk food binge.

Making some small changes can have a big effect on your heart health.  First and foremost, MOVE MORE.  Yep, just that simple.  Walk, park your car a little further out in the parking lot, walk around the block,  I know one lady who would walk the perimeter of the local “really large discount store”.  Of course, I recommend the Y. 

Eat Real Food.  Yes, the kind without nutrition labels.  Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables along with lean meats.  Minimize the use of boxed, bagged, and canned foods.  Frozen vegis are actually higher in nutrition, as they are frozen at peak quality levels, rather than sitting on store shelves for who knows how long.  Healthy does not mean tasteless, season with herbs and spices.  Salt, I love you, but you are breaking my heart…… love your heart, lose the salt.  Be especially careful with anything labeled LOW FAT/LOW SUGAR.  To compensate for flavor, the low fat stuff is usually high in sugar and the low sugar stuff is high in fat.

Watch Your Waist.  A big belly puts you at risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and other conditions.  A waist circumference of 40 inches or more in men or 35 inches or more in women, spells danger.

Get Stress in Check.  Stress can make your blood vessels constrict and cause the plaque in your arteries to rupture, leading to a heart attack or stroke.  You can’t get rid of stress, but you can learn ways to deal with it.  Fixes can range from practicing yoga to making some life changes to eliminate stress triggers.

Ditch the Tobacco.  Period.  All tobacco, smokeless, and Vape too.  Nicotine in any form is bad for your heart and lungs and can lead to erectile dysfunction, amputated limbs, and a host of other problems.

Stay on Top of Screenings.  Yes, see your doctor regularly, have your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure monitored.  High blood pressure is a silent killer, it can be very bad before symptoms ever present themselves.  Head off potential issues before they become a problem. 

A little effort on your part now, will lead to a long healthy life.  Hey, that is a pretty good thing!

Jody Holton is marketing director of the YMCA of Southeast Texas. Contact her at