The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Health & Fitness

February 8, 2013

Speaking of health: Heart Health: Tips to improve your ticker

— According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease causes approximately one out of four deaths in the United States. Although this rate has been decreasing, the prevalence and risk factors are still quite high in our communities.

February is American Heart Month, so now is a great time to review the tips below to help you prevent heart disease and improve your well-being.

1. Exercise regularly. One of the main risks for heart disease and cardiac-related problems is obesity. Exercising on a regular basis is a great way to shed pounds and keep your heart healthy. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. These aerobic activities help maintain ideal body weight, enhance quality of life and lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Quick tip: Take a 30-minute walk five days per week.

2. Eat a balanced diet. Stick to a low-fat diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats and other sources of protein like nuts and seeds. Beware of added salt, sugar and saturated fats. Quick tip: Select grilled instead of fried entrees.

3. Stop smoking. Smoking is a leading cause of heart disease, as well as a risk factor for cancer, stroke and diabetes. If you do smoke, there are resources to help you quit. You can visit, or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free assistance on starting your smoking cessation plan. Quick tip: Tell friends, family and co-workers that you are trying to quit.

4. Maintain proper blood pressure levels. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a serious condition that can lead to a number of cardiac issues, including a heart attack. Optimal blood pressure should be less than 130 over 80 Quick tip: Keep blood pressure in that desired range by staying physically active, managing stress, eating nutritious meals and not smoking.

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