The bad news is that Americans suffer 1.5 million heart attacks and strokes each year. The good news is that many of the factors that put you at risk can be controlled. We’re not talking age, gender, race or heredity. We’re talking about lifestyle and diet changes that can severely cut down your risk.
For instance, when was the last time you tested your blood pressure? According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 67 million Americans have high blood pressure. Don’t have a blood pressure monitor? Many grocery stores and pharmacies have a machine where you can take your blood pressure for free. If not, you can pick up a small blood pressure monitor at many pharmacies fairly inexpensively.
Who is at Risk?
Don’t think that heart disease is an illness that only attacks those 65+. About 150,000 people who died from cardiovascular disease in 2009 were younger than age 65. Other factors can increase your risk:
- African men are 30% more likely to die from heart disease than were non-Hispanic white men.
- More women tend to die from heart disease than men.
- Low income
- A family history of high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes
- Living in the southeastern united States
Concerned about your risk? Use this heart attack risk calculator.
Lowering Your Blood Pressure
There are some obvious ways to lower your blood pressure, but some of these may come as a surprise to you:
- Stop smoking or using tobacco products.
- Limit your alcohol intake to one drink for females, two drinks/day for males.
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day, even if it’s a slow walk.
- Don’t follow any quick weight loss diets. There are two diets proven to be heart healthy — the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan and the Mediterranean diet. These diets are high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and certain types of fish (salmon and mackerel). It’s important to choose foods that have less salt.
- Test your blood pressure daily and take your blood pressure medicine.
Understand that high blood pressure can be controlled. Take small steps towards managing this condition.
The Center for Disease Control and The American Heart Month are working in conjunction for the Million Hearts®–a national effort to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes in the United States by 2017. Help eradicate the leading cause of death by taking care of yourself – and your heart!