February is American Heart Month – How can you improve your heart health today?

February is many things, but it’s also American Heart Month. The first American Heart Health Month occurred in February 1964, as declared by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Back then, more than half the deaths in the U.S. could be traced to cardiovascular disease.

Today, heart disease remains the leading cause of death in both men and women in the U.S. Studies show that 2,300 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each day – an average of one death every 38 seconds.

Cardiovascular disease is a global problem. Including heart disease and stroke, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death globally, claiming more 17.9 million lives each year. That number is expected to rise to more than 23.6 million by 2030[1].

A preventable problem

While it may be a leading cause of death, it’s also one of the most preventable causes. By following some simple guidelines, you can reduce your risk of heart disease:

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  • Know your family health history: It’s important to understand your risk factors for heart disease. Did your parents or grandparents suffer from it?
  • Have regular check-ups: An annual check-up is one of the best ways to gauge your heart health. Working with your doctor, you can come up with a plan to manage any habits or conditions you may need to address.
  • Make heart-healthy choices: This includes diet AND exercise. The best foods for your heart are those rich in nutrients, fiber and healthy fats[2].

Exercising for a healthy heart

Exercise helps you maintain a healthy heart. Activities like cycling, running or swimming are great for heart health. However, one of the best exercises may be one of the easiest to incorporate into your routine – Walking!

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Brisk walking lowers your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes – all risk factors for heart disease and stroke. It also prevents bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis. Walking also helps keep your weight under control, which can get tougher as we age.

Why is walking one of the best exercises to do on a daily basis? Not only does it have health benefits, but it’s easy to start with no expensive equipment required besides a good pair of shoes. Walking can also be done anywhere. You can walk outside of course, but if that isn’t an option, you can walk indoors on a track, a treadmill or even at the mall or a suitable indoor location.

Best of all, you don’t need to have special skills or training to walk. It’s safer than other forms of exercise, meaning there aren’t as many injuries associated with it as there are with other types of fitness activities. Studies show that walking has the lowest dropout rate of any exercise[3].

How to get started

Walking

If you’re not walking extensively yet, make sure to start slow. Before you begin any exercise activity, talk to your doctor. If you aren’t currently active, starting with any amount of walking, even five to 10 minutes a day, can be helpful. Start walking more and taking longer walks as you feel able.

If you’re already in shape, try starting with 30 minutes of dedicated walking per day and adding more every week or so. It’s very hard to actually walk too much! The more you walk, the more benefits you may reap.

Russell Pate, Ph.D., a professor of exercise science in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, says, “The findings are consistent with the American Heart Association’s recommendations for physical activity in adults that we need 30 minutes of physical activity per day, at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week to derive benefits.”

The Pacer Pedometer is a fantastic way to track your activity levels and give you the support you need to keep moving forward! Track your walks to see your distance, calories burned and other great info. Or just keep tracks of your steps and try to hit a goal number every day.

Get started today with a walking program – your heart will thank you.

References:

[i] http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/Walking/Walk-Dont-Run-Your-Way-to-a-Healthy-Heart_UCM_452926_Article.jsp#.Wnhu0JM-c0o

[ii] http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20720182,00.html

[iii] http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/Walking/Walk-Dont-Run-Your-Way-to-a-Healthy-Heart_UCM_452926_Article.jsp#.Wnhu0JM-c0o

 

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