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Friday, February 10, 2012

Heart Health and Physical Fitness

Heart disease is the number one killer in the U.S. It is also a major cause of disability. There are many different forms of heart disease. The most common cause of heart disease is narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart itself. This is called coronary artery disease and happens slowly over time. It's the major reason people have heart attacks.

Other kinds of heart problems may happen to the valves in the heart, or the heart may not pump well and cause heart failure. Some people are born with heart disease.

You can help reduce your risk of heart disease by taking steps to control factors that put you at greater risk:

  • Control your blood pressure
(The single most important risk factor for stroke.)  More information can be found at High Blood Pressure (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)

  • Lower your cholesterol
As blood cholesterol levels rise, so does the risk for cardiovascular disease.  For more information on lowering your cholesterol, visit: High Blood Cholesterol: What You Need to Know (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute) and Treating High Cholesterol: A Guide for Adults (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality)

  • Don't smoke
Smoking is the most important preventable cause of premature death in the United States. Visit Smoking and Your Heart (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute) for more information.

  • Get enough exercise (see information below)
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the No. 1 killer in America.  In 2004, about 871,000 adults in the United States died of CVD, accounting for about 36 percent of all deaths.

Lack of physical activity is a risk factor for coronary heart disease.

Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and most Americans are not physically active enough to gain any health benefits. Swimming, cycling, jogging, skiing, aerobic dancing, walking or many other activities can help your heart. Whether it's included in a structured exercise program or part of your daily routine, all physical activity adds up to a healthier heart.  Check out these sites:

Get Active (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion)

Guide to Physical Activity (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)

Physical Activity Improves Quality of Life (American Heart Association)

The Exercise Habit:  How much exercise do I need?

Physical Activity for Everyone: Energize Your Life!

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