INDIANAPOLIS—The heart is the symbol of Valentine’s Day, but hearts are connected to the month of February in another important way. February is American Heart Month, a time to focus on ways to be heart healthy by learning about important screenings and prevention.
Heart disease is the number one killer of Hoosiers, and stroke is not far behind as the fourth leading cause of death in the state. Tobacco use, high blood pressure and high cholesterol all contribute to the risk of heart attacks, strokes and related vascular diseases, which kill more than 800,000 Americans each year—more than any other condition. Of these people, 150,000 are younger than age 65.
Approximately 25 percent of adults in Indiana smoke cigarettes. More than 30 percent of adults have been told they have high blood pressure and almost 40 percent have high cholesterol according to the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
“We know that smoking and breathing secondhand smoke greatly contribute to a person’s risk for heart disease, stroke and heart attack,” said State Health Commissioner William VanNess II, M.D. “But it’s important to remember that high blood pressure and high cholesterol are serious health threats as well. They are far too common and have no detectable symptoms. Being tobacco free and getting regular screenings can help reduce your risks.”
According to the CDC Vital Signs report, in order to improve blood pressure and cholesterol control levels among U.S. adults, a comprehensive approach that involves policy and systems changes to improve health care access, improved quality of preventive care and better patient adherence to treatment is needed.
Dr. VanNess says individual healthy behaviors also play a critical role.
“Hoosiers can take steps to lower cholesterol and blood pressure and improve their heart health by eating a diet that is low in sodium, total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol,” said Dr. VanNess. “It also needs to be rich in fruits and vegetables and balanced with health doses of exercise.”
Even though the weather is cold, there are still activities for people who want to keep their hearts healthy during the winter. Follow the suggestions below from INShape Indiana:
· Exercise to DVDs or podcasts. Weather conditions should never prevent you from exercising. Consider renting an exercise DVD or downloading videos online and ask the family to join you.
· Take advantage of indoor community pools. Swimming is a great indoor activity and many communities in Indiana have pools open to the public year-round. Check with your local parks department, fitness facilities or schools.
· Try using resistance bands at work or home. Resistance bands are great for strengthening. Use these during your regular fitness routine or in between sedentary activities.
· Take the stairs. Climbing stairs versus taking the elevator is one of the greatest activities you can do during the day. Taking the stairs will burn calories and get your heart rate up.
· Go ice skating or skiing. Many facilities across the state offer ice skating or skiing during the winter. Participating in a winter sport will keep your fitness routine exciting and get you outdoors.
· Be a mall walker. If the streets and sidewalks are too icy or snowy, consider walking at the mall. Leave the wallet at home to focus solely on your exercise.
For additional tips on how to eat better, move more and avoid tobacco, visit the INShape Indiana website, www.INShapeIndiana.org. This year, the site has a whole new look and feel, including a “Community Corner” with resources to help Hoosiers who want to live healthier lives.
To visit the Indiana State Department of Health, go to www.StateHealth.in.gov.