YMCA of Greater Erie

In the last blog post, we learned several ways to celebrate American Heart Month. Today it’s time to continue our healthy heart education by looking at the risk factors of heart disease and more preventative measures that we can take this month.

There are several different risk factors for heart disease. Some we have no control over like age, gender, race of family medical history. If we focus on the factors that we can take responsibility for, however, there is a lot we can do to reduce our risk for heart disease and improve our overall health. Here are a few examples:

  • High blood pressure – If you followed the advice in the last blog post, then hopefully you know whether or not you have high blood pressure. Some things you can do reduce your blood pressure include working out, quitting smoking, reducing your stress, and starting a healthy, low-sodium diet. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommend following the DASH diet which encourages food with less saturated fats and more whole grains, lean meats and veggies.
  • High cholesterol – There are some medications, like statins and blood thinners, used to treat hypertension or secondarily treat high cholesterol, but these medications sometimes come with their own adverse side effects. Before you get to a point where medications and their side effects are necessary, consider simple lifestyle changes. Again, exercise and diet can do wonders for hypertension. Harvard Medical School published a list of 11 common, healthy foods that can lower your LDL.
  • Diabetes – Did you know that someone with diabetes is two to four times more likely to develop heart disease than those without? By frequently monitoring your blood glucose levels, taking insulin regularly, exercising, and using the glycemic index to meal plan, you can better control your diabetes symptoms and reduce your risk for heart disease.
  • Obesity – Our list ends with obesity because obesity actually influences the other three symptoms. Most often, people who are obese often suffer from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, prediabetes or diabetes, putting them at a greater risk for heart disease. If you are overweight or obese, take this month to refocus on your weight loss or health resolutions from January. Commit to a healthy eating plan and check out some of the fitness programs your local YMCA has to offer. Your heart along with the rest of your body will thank you!

Editor’s Note: The above post was contributed by Caitlin Hoff, a health and safety investigator. Caitlin aims to educate consumers to make smart decisions affecting their personal health and that of their families.