American Heart Association’s 3 Steps for a Healthy Heart
The American Heart Association Scientific Sessions are underway this week in Dallas – a gathering of more than 18,000 heart health experts from more than 100 countries. When speakers take the podium to present to the latest in research, the world is listening. Cardiologist Mariell Jessup, president of the American Heart Association, is among several experts taking the stage. She has been talking about the new guidelines released last week to reduce the number of heart attacks and strokes – including a new risk assessment tool that is garnering quite a bit of discussion. Dr. Jessup is taking advantage of the national platform to share the three simple things we can do to reduce our risk of heart disease starting today and for the rest of our lives.
First, she says we need to exercise “for exercise's sake every day.” The heart is a muscle that responds to exercise and inactivity. If we don’t exercise, the heart muscle weakens, making it more difficult to pump blood throughout the body and increasing our risk of developing heart disease. However, if we exercise, we not only strengthen our heart muscle, we can also reverse some risk factors leading to heart disease. The AHA recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days a week, but at least 10 minutes of brisk walking a day is adequate to reap heart health benefits.
Second on Dr. Jessup’s list for improving our heart health – don’t smoke. “Never smoke cigarettes; stop immediately if you do,” she says in an interview with CNN. Smoking damages our hearts through first exposing our blood cells to tobacco, which can harm the function of our heart muscle, as well as blood vessels. This leads to atherosclerosis - a disease in which plaque builds up in the arteries, narrowing arteries and limiting blood flow. Overtime this can lead to chest pain, heart failure or even a heart attack.
Finally, if we control blood pressure along with the first two recommendations, we have hit the heart-healthy trifecta, according to Dr. Jessup. Of the one in three Americans with high blood pressure, half do not have it properly managed. Dr. Jessup says controlling blood pressure would reduce heart failure alone by 50 percent. High blood pressure is treated through lifestyle modifications, like following a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight, and medication therapy if not controlled through modifications.
Can you take the 3-step challenge to a healthier heart? Share with your friends and help spread the word.