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Heart Disease

Do you know what the leading cause of death is for both men and women? Heart disease.

The number one culprit for causing hearse disease? Smoking. Tobacco smoke has nearly 5,000 chemicals in it, many of which can damage your heart and blood vessels.

In addition, nicotine narrows your blood vessels, increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. And the carbon monoxide in the smoke means you’re getting less oxygen, forcing your heart to work harder. Even smokeless tobacco, low tar and low nicotine cigarettes, and second-hand smoke are dangerous.

But the good news is that when you quit using tobacco, no matter how long or how much you used, your risk of getting heart disease drops significantly within a year.

Thirty minutes of exercise on most days is a great preventative for developing heart disease. It lowers your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and your risk of getting diabetes, all of which play a role in developing heart disease. Exercising doesn’t have to be jogging; it can be gardening, housekeeping, and walking the dog. The more frequent, intense, and longer your workout, the greater the benefit.

Follow the DASH diet. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, but the diet has been found helpful in reducing the risk for a number of conditions, including heart disease. DASH is low in fat, cholesterol, and salt, and rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.

Eating saturated fats in particular raise the risk of heart disease. These are found in beef, butter, cheese, milk, and coconut and palm oils. Eating trans fats may be even worse and are found in some deep-fried fast foods, bakery products, packaged snack foods, margarine, and crackers.

On the other hand, the Omega 3 fatty acids found in most fish may lower your risk of heart attack, prevent irregular heartbeats, and lower blood pressure. Of course, mercury is always a concern with fish, so avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. Omega 3 fatty acids can also be found in flaxseed, walnut, soybean, and canola oils, or you can take a supplement.

If you do the above, your weight should be at a healthy level, which also helps. To find out if you’re overweight, figure out your body mass index (BMI) by going to www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi, a service of the National Institutes of Health. You want your BMI to be under 25.

As always, see your doctor to determine your risk of heart disease and have your blood pressure and cholesterol tested regularly.