Inside Kentucky Health

You shouldn’t worry if your attempts to eat right get sidetracked during this holiday by all the delicious dinners, or if your attempts to exercise are disrupted by holiday travel and parties, or even if your attempts to avoid sweets are shot down by all the amazing plates of cookies and brownies that magically appear in front of you. According to the American Heart Association, that’s OK.

All you need to do to focus on heart health during the holiday is check out the AHA’s list of “Life’s Simple 7,” which can help you assess where you are and what you should change to live a long, healthy life free of heart disease.

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“Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women, but in most cases it can be prevented,” said Kathy Renbarger, Metro director for the American Heart Association. “If we choose to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and not smoke, we can reduce our risk of heart disease and stroke by as much as 80 percent.”

The list of “Simple 7” Heart Health Factors starts with physical exercise. The AHA says 70 percent of Americans don’t get the exercise they need, but this doesn’t mean everyone has to become a gym rat. Just pick up the pace by walking briskly from the parking lot to the office, or take the stairs instead of the elevator.

“Adults need at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise five times a week to be heart healthy,” said Renbarger. “Children need at least an hour of exercise every day.”

In addition to getting active, the “Simple 7” tips are controlling cholesterol, eating better, managing blood pressure, losing weight, reducing blood sugar, and stopping smoking.

On its website, the AHA offers easy steps to take control of heart health in each of those areas. The holidays may be a stressful time for many, but it’s also a great time to focus on the future. It’s a good time to start exercising, stop smoking and improving the diet.

heartmato“A healthy diet should contain at least five to seven servings of fruits and veggies every day, be low in fat and have less sodium,” said Renbarger. “Many of our favorite dishes can be prepared in a healthier way, and the American Heart Association has plenty of recipes and tips for doing so on its website.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, coronary heart disease causes nearly 400,000 deaths per year around the U.S. and costs more than $100 billion overall in health services, medication and lost productivity. In Jefferson County, the rate of death caused by heart disease is 105.4 per 100,000 population. The Healthy Louisville 2020 goal is to reduce that to 94.8.

There’s a long way to go. We can start by working on the Simple 7.