Understand and recognize heart disease

Patient having her heart examined by physician

Heart disease is a common heart condition that affects the major blood vessels that supply the heart muscle. Every 37 seconds, someone in the United States dies from heart disease, so it’s important to know the symptoms:

  • Chest pain, chest tightness, chest pressure and chest discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper stomach area, or back
  • Pain, numbness, weakness, or coldness in the legs or arms

Simple ways to do your heart some good

For most people, heart disease is preventable. Choosing healthy behaviors not only lowers your risk for heart disease but also prevents other serious chronic conditions and improves your quality of life.

  • Understand your health history and risk factors
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Keep healthy blood sugar numbers
  • Get 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity each week
  • Don’t smoke
  • Monitor your blood pressure
  • Maintain healthy cholesterol numbers

Eat your way to a healthy heart

While you may bristle at the idea of starting a “diet,” following a heart-healthy eating plan is easier than you might think. Making just a few small changes can have you on your way to a healthier heart.

  • Control your portion size – Learn the correct portion sizes for your needs (and skip a second trip through the serving line)
  • Eat smarter - Eat smaller amounts of high-calorie, high-sodium foods, and more nutrient-rich foods
  • Select whole grains – Make substitutions for refined grain products or be adventurous by trying new foods such as quinoa or barley
  • Limit unhealthy fatsThe American Heart Association recommends a diet that achieves 5% to 6% of calories from saturated fat
  • Choose low-fat proteins – Lean meat, poultry and fish, low-fat dairy products, and eggs are some of the best choices
  • Limit or reduce sodium – Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease

Sources: The American Heart Association, webmd.com, Mayo Clinic, CDC

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