why do we need a healthy heart

Heart disease is nothing to ignore, and it can strike both the old and young. In fact,
is the leading cause of death among men and women in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, someone in America has a coronary event every 25 seconds. Heart Disease Risk: When to Worry Heart disease symptoms can occur at any age, and your first symptom of heart disease might be a heart attack. For women. Although the average age of a heart attack for women is in the early seventies, don't be fooled into thinking that heart disease will occur when you're older. More women in their early twenties die of heart disease than of, says Noel Bairey Merz, MD, director of the Women's Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles. Also, rates of heart attacks among younger women, ages 35 to 54, have been rising over the last 20 years. For men. The average age of a heart attack in men is 66, but like with women, heart disease can strike at any age and must be taken seriously at all ages. One in four deaths among men in 2006 were due to heart disease, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Heart Health: Getting Screened Many doctors recommend that all adults get a heart health screening every year by their primary doctor; this should include a check of, blood cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and height and weight. Your doctor should also be taking an inventory of your cigarette smoking, exercise habits, and nutrition habits every year, Dr. Bairey Merz says. However, the Society for Heart Attack Prevention and Eradication (SHAPE), as part of its "Campaign to Eradicate Heart Attack," recommends that most men at about age 45 should go one step beyond these annual blood tests and get non-invasive imaging tests в called Coronary Calcium Scoring or Carotid IMT testing в to look for evidence of plaque in the arteries before they have heart disease symptoms.

For women who don't have risk factors or symptoms, SHAPE recommends screening at age 55, says Prediman K. Shah, MD, director of the cardiology division at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles. But if you have risk factors such as diabetes or a strong, you should get screened around age 40, Dr. Shah says, even if you have no symptoms of heart disease. Getting these tests makes sense because 50 percent of the time, the first sign of heart disease is a heart attack or sudden death, Shah adds. How to Lower Your Heart Disease Risk For better heart health, you can Quit Smoking. Smoking causes your risk of heart attack to rise sharply, but one year after quitting your risk is cut in half and continues to go down as you stay smoke-free. Monitor your blood pressure. Because having high blood pressure makes your heart work harder, it raises the risk of heart disease. Exercising, losing weight, eating healthy foods, cutting down on your sodium intake, and limiting the number of alcoholic drinks to a maximum of one a day for women or two a day for men can help keep your blood pressure numbers in the healthy range. Get your cholesterol as low as possible. The higher your blood cholesterol (which causes plaque to build up in the artery walls), the higher your risk for heart disease. Many of the same steps that help lower blood pressure в eating healthy foods, exercising, and losing weight в also help lower your cholesterol.

Get your weight down to a healthy level. Having excess weight makes you more likely to have high blood pressure, and diabetes, and raises your risk for heart disease. If you have weight to lose, set a goal of taking off about 10 percent, which can go a long way toward lowering your risk. Work up a sweat. Exercising at a moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes most days of the week also helps protect your heart. The good news about following a heart-healthy lifestyle is that it's also beneficial for your overall health. So when you keep your heart healthy, you'll also feel great в and help yourself stay that way for years to come. Your heart is the center of your cardiovascular system, and it is vitally responsible for just about everything that gives your body life -- ranging from the transportation of oxygen to the success of your immune system. However, the foods you eat and the amount of activity you choose to take part in can dramatically affect the overall health of your heart and the many other tissues that make up your cardiovascular system. Your blood pressure is one area of heart health that needs to be regularly checked and regulated. High blood pressure, or hypertension, can be affected by your overall weight, especially once you reach a body mass index score of 30 or higher. This score is classified as obese. Excess fat increases the work your heart has to perform to pump blood throughout your body. The harder your heart works, the more pressure is placed on the walls of your arteries, which can increase your risk for blood vessel damage.

Lowering your body weight by even as little as 5 to 10 percent can lower your blood pressure and increase your heart health. Controlling your cholesterol also plays an important role in heart health; it decreases your risks for heart disease, heart attack and stroke. The two main kinds of cholesterol are low-density lipoprotein -- LDL or the "bad" cholesterol -- and high-density lipoprotein -- HDL or the "good" cholesterol. The LDL cholesterol is found in foods high in saturated fat, especially animal proteins. When consumed in high levels, LDL cholesterol can build up in the bloodstream and calcify into hard plaque. This plaque makes it difficult for blood to circulate through the affected arteries, increasing your risk for cardiovascular damage. Taking care of your heart also affects your circulation. Good circulation is needed to transport oxygen and nutrients to the many different cells in your body. Without proper circulation, tissues begin to die, which can result in amputations or even death, depending on what tissues are not getting enough oxygen. High blood pressure, cholesterol plaque and other heart diseases can all affect your body's ability to transport blood efficiently throughout your body. To keep your heart healthy, your body needs adequate amounts of exercise accompanied by a heart-healthy diet. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. A heart-healthy diet consists of the majority of your calories coming from vegetables, fruits and high-fiber foods like legumes and whole grains. These foods are accompanied in moderation by lean proteins, especially fish, as well as low-fat dairy products, nuts and seeds.

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