NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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February is American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month

            For American Heart Month 2013,  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have setup a week-by-week list of suggestions for better health.  Their suggestion is to make one small change each week to lower sodium, get active, quit smoking, and control blood pressure to boost your heart health this month.

            Goal #1 - Halt the Salt.  Most American adults (and children too) are eating too much sodium. In fact, we are eating about 3,400 mg of sodium a day, when most of us should have only 1,500 mg per day. Eating too much sodium increases your risk for high blood pressure, a major contributor to heart disease and stroke.

Week 1 - Read Nutrition Facts Labels. Processed foods account for most of the sodium in our diet, not the salt shaker at home. When shopping at the grocery store, look for the lowest sodium options of your favorite foods.

Week 2 - Eat more servings of fruits and vegetables a day to ward off heart disease. A diet rich in fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables can help lower sodium.

Week 3 -Eat out less, cook more at home. One restaurant meal can easily add up to more than a day’s worth of sodium. Try making some of your favorite dishes with lower sodium ingredients at home. If a recipe calls for salt, use half the amount. You can also experiment with fresh herbs like cumin, basil, rosemary and cilantro to wake up your palette and enhance the taste of your food.

Week 4 - Eat less of the Saltiest Foods. Knowing the foods that contribute the most sodium in today’s diet can help you make wiser, healthier choices. Here are the common foods that can lead to sodium overload: bread and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, pizza, poultry, soups, sandwiches, cheese, pasta dishes, meat dishes and snacks.

            Goal #2 -Get Moving - Regular physical activity is a must for having a healthy heart. Schedule your workout days on your calendar and treat them like an important appointment you can’t miss. In addition to helping your heart, exercise will give you more energy and reduce stress.

Week 1 - Aim for 30 minutes. Moderate exercise for 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week is a great way to lower your risk of heart disease. You can either workout for 30 minutes all at once or try breaking up your workout into 3-10 minute intervals throughout your day. If you don’t want to go to the gym, try taking a brisk walk around your neighborhood or at your local mall to kick off your new fitness habit.

Week 2 - Build Muscle. Pumping iron can help your body’s most important muscle—your heart. You can begin slowly, increasing the weight and repetitions as you progress. Adding resistance training to your workout has other benefits too, including increased bone density, coordination, and keeping a healthy weight.

Week 3 - Take a class. Try salsa dancing, yoga, Pilates, or kick-boxing to add variety to your fitness routine. It’s a great way to try something new and keep your body moving. Take a friend with you and have fun exploring new activities.

Week 4 - Go High-tech. Try one of the many fitness apps available on your smart phone to help reach your fitness goals. Think of it as a personal trainer in your phone ready 24/7 to give you training tips and motivation when you need it. Many of these apps are free and can log your workout progress.

            Goal #3 -Kick the Tobacco Habit - Tobacco is still the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined. So now is the time to quit for good.

Week 1- Change your routine. Do things and go places where smoking isn’t allowed. Visit libraries, museums, or even a department store. If you try to be near non-smokers it will help in your resolve to kick the habit.

Week 2 - Talk to your health care provider. Your doctor can help if you’re considering using medication to help you stop smoking. There are prescriptions and over-the-counter medications that can help reduce your cravings and withdrawal symptoms so you can focus on changing the behavior and habits that trigger your urge to smoke.

Week 3 - Let others help Tell family, friends, and co-workers that you’re going to quit and you need their support. Sign up for individual, group, or telephone counseling. Studies have shown that you have a better chance of being successful if you have help. Free telephone counseling is available at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

Week 4 - Don’t give up. Don’t let previous attempts to quit sabotage you now. Think about your past attempts to quit—what worked and what didn’t. Keep trying to quit methods until you find what works for you.

            Goal #4 - Know Your Blood Pressure -Lowering your blood pressure or maintaining normal blood pressure can greatly reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke. Nearly 1 in 3 adults (about 67 million) has high blood pressure and more than half of them don’t have it under control.

Week 1- Check it. It’s important to know your numbers and what they mean. A normal reading is under 120 systolic (top number) and under 80 diastolic (bottom number). Track your blood pressure and discuss your readings with your doctor, pharmacist or other health care provider.

Week 2 -Take prescribed medicines. Remember to take blood pressure medications daily and follow the directions on the bottle. Use notes, pillboxes, and other reminders to take your medication.

Week 3 - Limit Alcohol. In addition to raising blood pressure, too much alcohol can add unneeded calories to your diet. If you drink alcoholic beverages, have only a moderate amount – one drink a day for women, two drinks a day for men.

Week 4 -Take time to relax. We live in a fast-paced hectic world that’s often stressful. Coping with stress by turning to excessive alcohol or smoking can raise the risk for high blood pressure. Instead, take some time daily to meditate. Sit quietly for 10-15 minutes, take slow, deep breaths and think calm, quiet thoughts.

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