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What it takes to be heart-healthy

JANELL LEWIS

During the month of February, we recognize American Heart Health Month by bringing awareness to the dangers of heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United Stated for both men and women. In Beaufort County, the cerebrovascular death rate is 44.7 per 100,000, which is greater than the North Carolina rate of 43.1. The age-adjusted death rate due to heart disease is 184.8 per 100,000 in Beaufort County, which is greater than the North Carolina rate of 161.3.

Heart disease is one of the more preventable diseases. In order to prevent and decrease the number of heart disease and reduce the disparity, it is important for individuals to educate themselves and strive to live a heart healthy lifestyle.

Many daily activities that individuals partake in increase their risk for heart disease, such as smoking, drinking and drug abuse, unhealthy eating and physical inactivity. These particular activities can double an individual’s risk of developing heart disease. The good news is these are risk factors that you have control over and can change if you want.

Committing to small lifestyle changes in your life can reduce your risk of heart disease. It is recommended that one should participate in moderate aerobic exercise 30 minutes a day, five times a week. Moderate aerobic exercise includes walking, water aerobics, biking and gardening. Another physical activity option is participating in a vigorous 20 minute workout, three times a week. Vigorous workouts include: running, jogging, swimming laps, jumping rope and hiking uphill. It is necessary to eat a heart-healthy diet that consists of foods low in salt, saturated fats and trans-fat. You should aim to eat foods high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and proteins.

In addition to healthy lifestyle changes, it is important to identify your personal risk factors associated with heart disease. There are three types of uncontrollable risk factors associated with heart disease. These include age, gender and heredity. Heart disease can be misunderstood as a disease for the elderly population because four out of five people who die from coronary heart disease are 65 or older. However, heart disease affects individuals of all ages. Along with age, gender is another risk factor. Men and women are equally at risk for heart disease. Women, on average, develop heart disease 10 years later than men. It is especially important for women approaching menopause to be aware of the risk factors during this stage of change for their body because the risk for heart disease increases.

It is important to know the health of your heart, especially if your family has prior cases of heart disease. Learn more about your family history and make appointments to have regular check-ups with your local doctor. Test your heart health by allowing your doctor to check your blood pressure and cholesterol. By working with your doctor, it allows them to recommend medications to control your hypertension, cholesterol and diabetes. Taking the necessary steps to make small, but impactful, changes in your lifestyle and habits can help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Beaufort County Health Department strives to make a difference in our community by spreading the word about how to prevent heart disease and many other diseases. We also hope to encourage community members to stay active, live a heart healthy life and meet with their doctor regularly.

For more information about heart health, healthy lifestyles and other programs we offer, please contact JaNell Lewis 252-940-5090 or Janell.lewis@bchd.net.

JaNell Lewis is a public health education specialist with Beaufort County Health Department.