Having a healthy heart is essential

Simple steps to heart health from the American Heart Association.

Taking care of our health should be our priority. Following a healthy diet and being physically active can help prevent us from having a chronic disease or help us control the complications from chronic diseases. Having a healthy heart is essential for staying healthy. The American Heart Association developed “Life’s Simple 7” which are steps you can take to improve heart health and live better:

  • Get active: Thirty minutes of daily moderate exercise can reduce your risk of heart disease. Walking is a great way to improve your heart health and it’s free, easy and almost anyone can do it. Remember to also include weekly strength training, flexibility and balance exercises. Also, children need 60 minutes of physical activity each and every day. So, find different and fun ways to be an active family and help your kids ensure their heart health.
  • Control cholesterol: Total cholesterol should be below 200 mg/dL. Cholesterol can build up in the arteries increasing the risk factors for heart attack and stroke. When you control your cholesterol, you are giving your arteries their best chance to remain clear and unblocked. Try leaner meat cuts to control the cholesterol you are eating.
  • Eat better: A diet that includes a wide variety of all the food groups is essential for a healthy diet and healthier body. The American Heart Association also recommends that you eat fish twice a week, such as oily fish. For example, salmon and mackerel contain omega 3 fatty acids, which may help reduce blood clotting in the arteries and protect against hardening of the arteries. For heart health, limit saturated and trans fats, and choose and prepare foods with little or no salt. Choose whole grains like brown rice and whole-grain pasta and bread more often. Cut calories by cutting out foods high in solid fats and added sugar.
  • Manage blood pressure: High blood pressure is the single most significant risk factor for heart disease. The goal is to have your blood pressure be less than 120 over 80, so have your blood pressure checked regularly.
  • Lose weight: Too much fat, especially around your waist, puts you at a higher risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Losing that fat helps decrease your risk.
  • Reduce blood sugar: Diabetes is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. By keeping blood sugar levels in the healthy range and preventing diabetes, you can control your risk for heart disease. Those who have diabetes can control their blood sugar in order to slow or reduce the risk of long-term complications, like heart disease.
  • Stop smoking: Smokers have a higher risk of many health conditions, including heart disease, stroke and heart attacks. Contact CDC’s “Quit Now’ hotline for free help on how to stop smoking.

The American Heart Association has an online tool called My Life Check to help you assess your health. The survey asks questions about seven areas of your health. The results tell you where you are excelling and how you can make improvements. 

If you would like to learn more about heathy lifestyles, visit USDA’s My Plate page. Michigan State University Extension offers various educational programs for adults, families, and children that focus on lifestyle changes to promote healthy eating.

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