“The earlier in life you commit to taking care of your heart, the better chance you will have for avoiding heart disease,” Corpe says.

In recognition of American Heart Month in February, Lake Regional Health System is providing education to Lake Sun readers on various heart health topics.

How old do you need to be before thinking about heart health?

Now is good, says Jody Corpe, E.P., M.S., Lake Regional Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation manager.

“The earlier in life you commit to taking care of your heart, the better chance you will have for avoiding heart disease,” Corpe says.

Unfortunately, more and more Americans are developing cardiovascular disease in middle-age. More than 775,000 Americans between the ages of 35 and 64 were hospitalized for heart attacks, strokes, heart failure and other related conditions in 2016, and 75,000 middle-age Americans died from these causes.

“What makes this situation even more tragic is most cardiovascular deaths are preventable,” Corpe said. “Adults in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s need to be proactive to protect their hearts. Lifestyle changes can go a long way in improving cardiovascular health.” 

You Have the Power

Easy said, not so easy done. But, Corpe says, it’s worth the effort.

“Changing your lifestyle requires changing your habits, and that takes dedication,” she says. “So it’s essential to find motivation. Think about what you want out of life. Simple things like being active with your kids and grandkids, being able to work as long as you want, continuing hobbies and even just being here — not being one of the thousands of Americans who die in middle age from a preventable heart attack or stroke. These are the priorities to keep in mind as you commit to lifestyle changes.”

Your goals should include: eating a healthy diet maintaining a healthy weight getting enough physical activity not smoking or using other forms of tobacco

limiting alcohol use

Diet. “Focus on eating healthier, not on eating less,” Corpe says. “A healthy, balanced diet includes foods from all five food groups while limiting unhealthy fats, salt and added sugars.”

Weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing many diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. You can determine if you are overweight or obese using the Body Mass Index, a simple tool available online that requires entering your height and weight. Another important measure is your waist circumference. Waist circumferences greater than 40 inches for men and greater than 35 inches for women are associated with higher risk.

Physical activity. The Surgeon General recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes per week of moderate exercise (breathing and heart rate are noticeably faster but conversation is still possible) or 1 hour and 15 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (heart rate is increased substantially and breathing is too hard and fast for conversation). “Exercising 30 minutes a day, five days a week will meet the recommendation,” Corpe says. “Also, find opportunities to be more active throughout the day — take the stairs, park farther away, and if you work at a desk, spend a minute or two up and moving every hour.” 

Smoking. Not only does smoking cause about one of every five deaths in the United States, it also makes millions of Americans sick by causing lung disease, heart disease, cancer, respiratory problems and osteoporosis. “No matter how old you are, quitting smoking will improve your health,” Corpe says. “Talk to your doctor to get the support you need.”

Alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol raises a person’s blood pressure. Men should have no more than two drinks per day, and women, only one.

“Don’t feel like you have to make all of these changes at once,” Corpe says. “Fixing even one of these areas will result in encouraging benefits. Start small, and plan to build on your achievements.”

Cardiovascular Screening

Start taking charge of your health by attending Lake Regional’s Cardiovascular Screening, scheduled 7:30 to 10 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 16, in the hospital’s third floor conference rooms. 

There will be free screenings for pulmonary function, body mass index, body fat analysis, blood pressure and peripheral artery disease. Also available will be $5 lipid profiles (cholesterol), $5 fasting blood sugar tests and $17 pocket EKGs. Registration is encouraged at lakeregional.com/HeartScreen.