Heart disease happens when a number of ‘risk factors’ add up. Some of the risks – gender, genetics and age – are uncontrollable; but others – smoking, inactivity, excess weight, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes – are within our control. The key to preventing heart disease is to eat a healthy diet, get regular exercise, maintain a healthy weight, and take medications as prescribed. Use this Heart Attack Risk Assessment from the American Heart Association to find your risk for heart disease.
Men Need Help
Women take much better care of themselves. They might be programmed in to the system through OB-GYN care or maybe it’s taking care of the kids, but women visit their doctors for checkups, while men do not.
Over the past ten years, men have gotten fatter while women have stayed the same. In 2000, 27.5% of men were obese, but in 2010, it was 35%. In women, the obesity level remained stable at 33%. Along with obesity, men have more diabetes and high blood pressure, which places them at much greater risk. To their credit, men now smoke and binge drink less and they’re a bit more active. (1)
Most men depend on women to get them to the doctor. The New York Times writes, “…marriage is associated with better health, particularly for men. One reason is that wives often take on the role of care giver, setting up doctor appointments and reminding, even nagging, their husbands to go.” (2) To make nagging easier, keep in mind that every year, more than 150,000 heart disease and stroke deaths happen to people younger than 65. (3) Disability and family life are often forever changed.
At the doctor, the aforementioned nagged man will step on the scale, try out the blood pressure cuff, and give up blood for a lipid profile and glucose check. Usually the doctor visit makes it easier to get on a healthier course.
Day-to-day, we all have to watch our calories and food portions to maintain a healthy weight and lose the excess. We need to eat high-fiber foods – vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and legumes – for the antioxidants they contain that fight a low-grade inflammation that pushes towards heart disease. Meat should be is eaten in small amounts; it’s better to eat fish, beans, lentils, peas and seeds. Nuts are good in moderation, one to two ounces day. Trans fats, those extremely atherogenic additives in processed food, don’t make it into the house. But the main point is calorie control: don’t overeat to the point where your health is compromised
To get Heart Month resources to help yourself and your loved ones, visit the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And don’t forget to give the gift of a medical appointment for Valentine’s Day this year.
1. U.S. Men Report: Changes in Self-Reported Health Behaviors and Chronic Conditions from 1999 to 2009, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) http://www.cdc.gov/Features/dsMenBRFSS/
2. Parker-Pope, T (2011, July 19) The Nagging Effect: Better Health for Married Men. The New York Times. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/19/the-nagging-effect-better-health-for-married-men
3. The “Million Hearts™” Initiative—Preventing Heart Attacks and Strokes, Department of Health and Human Services. http://millionhearts.hhs.gov/index.html