CindySays: Heart disease can be overcome
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dear Cindy,
What is a resting heart rate, and how do I determine mine? -- Corinne
A resting heart rate is the number of heartbeats each minute you are at rest and completely still. The RHR can tell you how strong and efficient your heart is and, based on that number, indicate whether your heart is getting stronger or weaker as time goes by.
The lower the number, the more powerful your heart probably is, and the higher the number, the less able your heart is to efficiently pump the blood from the tip of your toes to the top of your head. Certain medications can skew these numbers, but generally your RHR is a great way to see if your cardio workouts are challenging your system enough to make a healthy difference over time.
The most accurate way to determine your RHR is to plan to take your pulse in advance because it must be taken before you rise. Once you get out of bed and move, the heart rate increases. Place a timepiece with a second hand near your bed so that when you wake, you can easily begin counting your heartbeats. You must record it for a full minute and repeat the count daily for five days. The average will be your RHR.
This is a great question, and because February is American Heart Month, I want to share some information vital to your heart health.
Care for your sweet heart
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. One in three deaths is from heart disease and/or stroke, which equates to 2,200 deaths every day.
It's also quite costly. In fact, hospitalizations because of heart disease and stroke cost the nation more than $444 billion in health-care expenses and lost productivity.
Pretty depressing statistics, considering it doesn't have to be this way. These numbers are out of control because we are out of control. Physical activity and better nutrition are life-changing choices we need to make a priority if we want to save lives and to reduce the insane financial burden heart disease is putting on our nation.
Recently, the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched Million Hearts, a simple yet powerful initiative that aims to empower everyone to make heart-healthy choices and to reduce the 1 million heart attacks and strokes in the U.S. over the next five years.
Granted, conquering the nation's biggest killer is not a simple task. After all, some risk factors are not within our control. But most are, so you actually have the power to add quality years to your life. The goal of Million Hearts is reachable and can be as easy as ABC.
The ABCs of saving a heart
A. Ask your doctor if you should take a daily aspirin. If he says yes, take it.
B. Blood pressure control. Find out if you have high blood pressure or hypertension. If you do, treat it.
C. Cholesterol. If you have cardiovascular risk because of high cholesterol, manage it.
CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden has said, "One of the things we hope the Million Hearts initiative will achieve is to get cardiovascular care right. As a country, we are doing very poorly -- only 47 percent of people with a prior cardiovascular event take aspirin, 46 percent have their blood pressure under control, 33 percent have their cholesterol under control, and only a small fraction of smokers who want to quit are getting evidence-based treatments proven to increase quitting."
We have the power
Within each of us is the decision-making power to choose better for ourselves. Do we choose to allow known behavior that is risky to take us down or do we choose a better fate?
Are you addicted to tobacco? Get help to quit. Don't assume because you've tried before and failed that you can't. If you want to quit, you can. There are successful strategies that will make it easier.
Are your diet habits making it more likely you will have heart disease? Small changes, such as limiting sodium and trans fats, make magnificent differences in your health. Small steps have a way of multiplying. You are in charge. Give yourself at least a fighting chance.
How about D and E?
Diet -- Think a healthy diet is complicated? Not so much. Small portion of lean chicken, fish, beef or pork (grilled) along with plenty of vegetables/fruits and you are on your way to a longer life.
Exercise -- Get physical for at least 30 minutes a day. You don't have to do it all at once. Add up the minutes -- 10 minutes here, 20 minutes there. Check that box and you may just avoid a heart incident or stroke.
Will you be one in a million?
You've only got one ticket to life, so I'm hoping you don't waste it. It's time to commit to a few healthy choices. Do this and watch your risk of dying of heart disease or stroke plummet by 80 percent. I want you to be one of the Million Hearts saved.
Cindy Boggs, fitness presenter, author and Activate America director, has been an ACE-certified instructor/trainer since 1989. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to her at YMCA of Kanawha Valley, 100 YMCA Drive, Charleston, WV 25311, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Look for Cindy's award-winning fitness advice book, "CindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World," at www.cindysays.com, or contact the YMCA at 304-340-3527.