Take Care Of Your Healthy Heart

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It is February (six weeks until Spring!) and it is also  American Heart Month. Before we getthe chocolate (dark chocolate please!) and flowers you will receive from your sweetie, let's talk about something many women don't know about: heart attacks don't just belong to men. Heart disease is the #1 killer of women and more deadly than all forms of cancer.

Ouch.  Okay, the band aid is off.  Some of these things simply need to be looked at head on and recognized so we can start to take charge of where we are with our health and what we can do to prevent heart disease from affecting us, and the people we know.

Are We All At Risk?

Here are a few key factors that can increase your chances of heart disease affecting you. The good news?  They are in your control.

Know Your Numbers.  I hear many people say that they never visit a doctor - besides, they eat a pretty healthy diet anyway.  Knowing your numbers - total cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, body mass index - is extremely important for assessing your risk.  It's a fact that unhealthy ranges raise your risk of a heart attack tremendously.  If you don't know what your numbers are then it is time for a visit to the doctor. Click here to get the details on your cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Know The Facts About Your Weight.  Here is the good news about losing weight: not only does it greatly reduce your risk of heart disease, it greatly reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  Excess weight puts an intense strain on your heart and makes it difficult for your body to perform optimally.  Click here to get your BMI (body mass index) and see where you fall in the spectrum of weight.

Winter Hibernation Is Not Good.  Start moving! Do something, anything.  Study after study shows that being inactive increases your risk for blood clots, high blood pressure, heart disease and a whole host of other physical problems.  Exercise has a whole lot of other advantages including steady energy, decreased blood pressure, better sleep and decreased risk of all diseases.

What You Can Do Right Now

Make Your Meals At Home.  Too much sodium in our diets has a direct correlation to high cholesterol and high blood pressure. One easy solution to cut the salt is to cut out the processed foods and takeout and cook more for yourself.  I say this all the time: you will never add in the amount of salt to a soup (or any dish you make) you make yourself that you get from a can or a box. And trust me, your own food tastes better.  Feel intimidated by cooking?  Start with my post on the virtues of the Mediterranean diet - a way of eating that is so good for your heart and my post on how to create the perfect healthy meal.

Lose Weight. This is a big one and I know it can feel overwhelming.  If you have a lot of weight to lose the number can feel daunting so it is important to break down weight loss into easy to manage steps and not make our same old mistakes.  It is also crucial to have accountability and support.  Planning, knowing how to cook healthy foods and exercise are also part of the equation.  If you need help with this, contact me, I have many ways to guide you in a non-intimidating, inspiring way. You don't have to go it alone.

Now, back to that dark chocolate and flowers..and your thoughts on heart disease!  Does it concern you?  What are some ways you have decided to take control of your health? Let me know in the comments below.

 Heather Carey, M.S., Culinary Nutritionist

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