Earlier this month, millions of people celebrated Valentine’s Day with chocolate candy and romantic meals. Personally, I prefer bacon to celebrate pretty much any holiday. And every 40 seconds this month (and every month thereafter), an American will suffer a heart attack. Although these events are seemingly unrelated, the American Heart Association (AHA) contends that lifestyle is the leading contributor to heart disease.
In fact, with an average 635,000 heart-related deaths each year, experts name cardiac disease as the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States. Sadly, dogs can also suffer from heart disease. To call attention to the prevalence of heart disease in America as well as encourage proactive steps, the federal government first declared February as American Heart Month in 1964.
Heart Health Matters
Your lifestyle is not only your best defense against heart disease and stroke, it’s also a personal responsibility. But while few would argue that diet and activity impact the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke, many fail to follow the simple steps that could change the paradigm. Ignorance about those steps is one reason. Another is denial. A third is unwillingness to change. But adaptation is necessary if we are to move the needle in the American heart disease story.
- Choose Low-Fat Protein Sources (My guess? Bacon doesn’t qualify.)
- Choose Whole Grains
- Control Portions
- Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
- Limit Sugar
- Limit Unhealthy Fats
- Plan Ahead
- Reduce Sodium Intake
- Treat Yourself (If you try to do follow any diet 24/7, you are bound to fall off the wagon. Instead, make room for special occasions [like National Dog Day.)]
- Remember why it matters.
No matter how you define success, good health is essential.
- Set goals & Keep track of your progress.
Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar says, “If you fail to aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” Instead of falling into this trap, decide what you want to achieve and set small goals to get you to the finish line.
- Start small.
First, stand up while working. Then, park further away from the store entrance than you typically would. Later, take the stairs instead of an elevator. Eventually, start walking around the block and then around the neighborhood. And don’t forget to walk your dog! Once you notice the benefits to your emotional and physical condition, you’ll probably be ready to add a little more to your fitness routine. Every little bit helps.
- Dress for success.
Invest in comfortable, well-made shoes and clothing that doesn’t bind or restrict breathing. Purchase a fitness tracker and use it to inform your new healthy lifestyle.
- Share fitness ideas with family and friends.
The way to make America healthier is one person at a time, one family at a time, one day at a time. Once you start to get healthy, share your success with the ones you love. And don’t forget to include your dog in your fitness plan.
- Adopt a backup plan.
Life happens. If you only plan for the best-case scenario, you run the risk of abandoning all hope when everyday life gets in the way. Instead, determine what you will do to stay healthy in a best and worst-case scenario.
- Don’t let relapses and setbacks derail your plans.
You’ll probably get sick or busy and miss a few workouts along the way. That’s okay. Just get back on the horse. You’ll be glad you did.
- Don’t vape. (Although the jury is still out about the long-term effects, medical experts agree risks abound.) I don’t get the appeal. As far as I know, they don’t even sell bacon flavored sauce.
- Limit alcohol.
- Stop smoking (or don’t ever start!)
- Watch your weight.
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