According to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, “Americans are fatter and sicker than people in other comparable countries.” The majority of us are aware that the US needs a health reality check- but what can you do about it? The easiest way to improve the health of America is to start by taking care of yourself!
Cardiovascular disease(CVD) is the #1 killer of Americans. While some risk factors of CVD can't be prevented- such as family history- most of the risk factors are something you have the ability to change or prevent! How do you line up? Follow along with the risk factors below as defined by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).
If you have one factor or less, you are considered Low Risk for CVD, and asymptomatic. A doctor or exercise professional would clear you to participate in any activity of your choosing. If you have two or more of the factors above, you are considered at Moderate risk for CVD, but still asymptomatic. You would be cleared for all activity, except would be recommended to get a check up with your doctor before participating in vigorous intensity (60-85% effort) activity. Finally, if you have known CVD, pulmonary, renal, or metabolic disease you are classified a high risk- and should get a medical exam before exercising, along with an exercise test that is medically supervised.
What Can You Do?
Get a Check Up
Having an understanding of your risk is one of the most important steps to creating a successful prevention program! If you don't know you're at risk, you won't know to fight. Get a better understanding of your health. Especially if you're a male above the age 45, or a woman above the age of 55- that's already one risk factor! So getting to a doctor who can update you on where you line up for body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and fasting glucose levels is important!
Even if you are younger than the risk factor age, you can have multiple of these risk factors and be just as high risk as someone who is in the risk age category. I can't emphasize to younger people enough how important it is to prepare your body now- eat healthy now, exercise now, quit smoking now. It's much harder to reverse years and years of unhealthy living! Don't wait until it's too late- START NOW!
As you probably saw above, one of the most surprising things on the list of risk factors is that if you haven't worked out at least 30 minutes at moderate intensity(40-60% effort), 3 times a week, for the last 3 months you're considered a sedentary adult! And that's only enough to get you out of the sedentary category!
Healthy adults are recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA) to workout at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity (40-60% effort) activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity (60-85% effort) activity per week. For an easy break down, think 5 days a week at 30 minutes for moderate intensity, or 3 days a week at 25 minutes for vigorous intensity. Of course, the exercise can be broken down however best suits your schedule and abilities- into sessions as small as 10 minutes.
Finally, even more exercise may be necessary to lose weight. Working out harder and longer may help you produce those desirable weight loss results you're looking for, but don't forget it will also help you reach greater physical and cardiovascular health!
Luckily, if you're using PK Fitness, it's easy to see how you line up in the fitness category! Use your PK workout log to see your workout history for the last few months- even down to the effort score! Make it your goal in the future to track your effort and reach these standards for good cardiovascular health.
Clean up your Diet
Eating healthy is a huge and important part of good heart health. Your diet contributes to your weight/BMI, your cholesterol, your fasting glucose levels, and on top of that the nutrients you put in to your body can greatly affect organ and body function. Luckily, feeding yourself foods that are nutrient-rich contain vitamins, minerals, proteins, dietary fiber, and more; AND, bonus: they have less calories!
Simply aiming to eat less low-nutrient, high-calorie foods is a great starting goal; however a full clean diet is necessary to keep that heart healthy! Cleaning up your diet, shouldn't feel like a diet- it's a lifestyle. Luckily, eating healthier by AHA standards is actually not so bad, which makes it easy to maintain. The AHA has a wonderful guide to each of the linked nutrients, click on each to get to the specifics!
Overall goals of diet:
- Reduce saturated fats and trans fats in diet, and replace with healthy fats- by eating lean meats, low fat dairy, and healthy cooking oils.
- Reduce high calorie foods and replace with fruits and veggies.
- Reduce low nutrient breads and 'carbs' and replace with healthy whole grains.
- Reduce calorie intake by eating nutrient-rich foods, that keep you fuller for longer.
- Reduce sodium intake to less than 2,400 mg per day by preparing foods with little to no salt.
While some may think smoking only has affect on your lungs, think again! Smoking decreases tolerance to physical activity, and increases the chance of developing blood clotting; it lowers HDL (the good cholesterol), it increases risk of a second contraction of CVD after bypass, and increases the risk of peripheral artery disease and aortic aneurysm.
And that's just the person smoking! According to the AHA 34,000 adults die each year from heart and blood vessel disease that was contracted by inhaling other people's smoke. For those that experience second hand smoke, their risk of stroke increases by 20-30%. That's HUGE!
I haven't experienced the difficulty of quitting smoking, so it's easy for me to sit over here at my computer and tell you to stop smoking, but I realize it's not easy to quit. If you're considering quitting smoking, I want to encourage you to consider the effect your smoking may have on loved ones surrounding you; and, take measures so in the least, they won't be affected any longer.
So, that's a wrap! I urge you to consider the ways that you could improve your heart health. Remember, CVD is the #1 killer in the US. Don't let yourself be another number contributing to this statistic, especially when there are so many ways you can fight and prevent CVD.
Let's live healthy together,
PK Fitness Program Coordinator