Jan|Feb 2018

February is American Heart Month!

Risk Factors YOU Can Control

Risk factors are conditions or habits that make a person more likely to develop a disease.  They can also increase the chances that an existing disease will get worse.

Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for heart disease that YOU can control.

Smoking.  People who smoke are up to six times more likely to have a heart attack than nonsmokers.

High blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and other conditions.  It can be controlled by getting regular physical activity, losing excess weight, cutting down on alcohol, and changing eating habits.  Some people may need medication.

High blood cholesterol can lead to a buildup of plaque in your arteries, which raises your risk for a heart attack.  You can lower high blood cholesterol by getting regular physical activity, eating less saturated fat and trans fat, and managing your weight.  Some people may need medication.

Overweight.  If you are overweight or obese, you are more likely to develop heart disease even if you have no other risk factors.  The good news is that losing just 5 to 10% of your current weight will help lower your risk for heart disease.

Type 2 diabetes greatly increases your risk for heart disease, stroke, and other serious diseases.  Many people at high risk for diabetes can prevent or delay the disease by reducing calories as part of a healthy eating plan and by becoming more physically active.

Energy Balance

Energy balance is the amount of calories you take in relative to the amount of calories you burn.  If you need to lose weight for your health, eating fewer calories and being more active is the best approach.  You're more likely to be successful by combing a healthful, lower calorie diet with physical activity.   For example, a 200-pound person who consumes 250 fewer calories per day and walks briskly each day for 1.5 miles will lose about 40 pounds in 1 year.    Most of the energy you burn each day - about three-quarters of it - goes to activities that your body automatically engages in for survival, such as breathing, sleeping, and digesting food.  The part of your energy output that you control is daily physical activity.  Any activity you take part in beyond your body's automatic activities will burn extra calories.

Let's Get Physical

To reduce the risk of heart disease, adults only need to do about 30 minutes of moderate activity on most, preferably all, days of the week.  If you are just starting to be active, try brisk walking for short periods such as 5 or 10 minutes, and build up gradually to 30 to 60 minutes at least 5 days per week. If you are just starting or significantly increasing your physical activity, take proper precautions and check with your doctor first.

Aerobic activity - 30 minutes/day at least 5x/week
Strength Training - at least 2x/week
Flexibility exercises - 3x to 7x/week


For more information on physical activity, heart disease, and heart health contact the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) at