While February is most commonly associated with Valentine's Day and all the treats, candy and love that come with it, there's a different sort of heart that takes center stage this month as well - the all important organ that oxygenates the rest of the body. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in every four deaths is caused by cardiovascular (heart) disease. That equates to approximately 610,000 deaths per year. While there are some proactive steps we all can take to help reduce the risks of heart disease, such as increasing activity and consuming a diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, making smart choices to protect one of the most vital organs in your body starts with knowing the facts. To highlight National Heart Month, we're addressing some common myths about keeping that all-important ticker healthy.
More That Meets the Eye
It's universally known that our lifestyle choices regarding diet and exercise play integral roles in keeping your heart and body healthy -- these are risk factors we can control. But genetics also play a considerable role in heart health -- If heart disease runs in your family, there naturally may be factors beyond lifestyle changes. If you have a genetic predisposition for heart disease, it's important to notify your doctor of your family history and inquire about ways to protect your heart -- even if you look and feel good.
Prevent High Cholesterol with Low-Fat Diets
Since the 70s,
we've generally been spooked by fat when it was advertised as the largest cause of obesity and heart disease. But in reality, that claim is too vague to explain a major part of the diet that comes in different forms. The main issue is the type of fats we consume.
Omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory where as Omege-6 fats are pro-inflammatory. A goal of a heart-healthy diet is balancing the different versions you consume to an approximately one-to-one ratio, while the typical American diet is much higher in Omega-6 fats. The human body isn't able to manufacture Omega-3 fats by itself, so it's important to choose foods that are packed with the heart healthy version. Tons of tasty options, like fish and nuts
, are packed with these heart-healthy omega-3s.
Increased Age Means Increased Blood Pressure
Many Americans experience higher blood pressure as they age
. While it may be common, it doesn't make it a healthy trend. As we age, artery walls stiffen and force the heart to pump harder. Over time, the increased force damages the arteries, overworks and lessons the effectiveness of the heart, resulting in damaged arteries that invite fat into its walls. It's important to regularly monitor your blood pressure and, if it's high, consult a doctor about incorporating exercise into your life.
Three Key factors that can lead to heart disease are high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol and smoking. According to the CDC, 49 percent of Americans have at least one of these risk factors. Other conditions and lifestyle choices also play a role in putting people at a higher risk - including obesity, poor eating habits, and physical inactivity.
While heart awareness and related deaths have fallen dramatically over the last five decades
, heart disease remains a leading cause of death in the U.S. Whether or not you're part of our network of Buffalo schools, WNY Catholic schools urges everyone to take a moment during National Heart Month to remember those who've lost their lives to heart disease, and to take the steps necessary to detect, treat and prevent heart disease.