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Nearly 30 years ago, within a 7 year time span, both of my parents died of cardiovascular disease.  I was a young woman in her mid-twenties and they were in their early fifties.  My father had high blood pressure, needed to lose weight and to stop smoking.  Their lifestyles weren’t health oriented.  They started smoking during WWII and continued their entire lives.  My dad stopped smoking but the negative health effects took their toll.  Within 6 months he was dead of a heart attack.  For a high school student, this was a traumatic life event.  My mom died of a stroke and heart attack about 7 years later.  Her weight was normal but she’d also been a smoker for 40 years of more.  Yes, this is their monument, and my father was a stone cutter and owner of Treber Memorials.  My family has had a monument business for the past 143 years but it was heartbreaking for us to select this monument.

Why do I share my story?  Because heart attack and stroke are two of the leading causes of death and disability in the United States.  Although you may have genetic factors that increase your risk of heart attack and stroke, there are many lifestyle habits that you can embrace to reduce your risk factors.

According to the Million Hearts™ Health Campaign, heart attack and stroke are two of the leading causes of death and disability in the United States, making cardiovascular disease responsible for 1 of every 3 deaths in the country.

Visit this website http://millionhearts.hhs.gov and use their My Life Check tool to assess your current cardiovascular health and learn more about stroke and heart disease.

What can you do?

Follow these suggestions for a healthier lifestyle:

  •  Eat more vegetables and fruits.  Try a fruit or vegetable as a mid-morning snack.  Add a piece of fruit to your breakfast routine.  If you are hungry, pick some fresh veggies as a healthy snack.
  • Move more.  We all know how important physical activity can be.  Make the commitment to move more each day.  Park your car away from the entrance, take the stairs, enjoy a walk during your lunch break or after dinner.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.  Talk to your doctor about your weight.  If you need to lose weight, start making small changes to reduce your calories and increase your physical activity.
  • Stop smoking.  If you are a smoker, set a quit date.  For resources to help you quit, call 1 800-QUIT NOW.  Talk to your doctor about other options to help you stop smoking including medications.  Smoking can lead to heart attack or stroke and steals an average of 13-14 years of your life.  Once you stop smoking, your risk for heart attack and stroke declines each year.
  • Watch your Blood Pressure.  High blood pressure increases the heart’s workload, causing the heart to thicken and become stiffer.  It also increases our risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and congestive heart failure.
  • Talk to your doctor about your cholesterol number.  As blood cholesterol rises, so does the risk of coronary heart disease. When other risk factors (such as high blood pressure and tobacco smoke) are present, this risk increases even more. A person’s cholesterol level is also affected by age, sex, heredity, and diet.

Take the Million Hearts™ pledge: http://millionhearts.hhs.gov.Save your heart, take the Million Hearts pledge, and celebrate American Heart Month

Make a commitment to saving your life.

Sources:

Choose My Plate available at http://www.choosemyplate.gov/

Healthy Ohio Program available at www.healthyohioprogram.org

Million Hearts Campaign available at http://millionhearts.hhs.gov

Writer:  Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Pickaway County, Ohio State University Extension.  treber.1@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension.

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