Each year, more than 80 million American adults are diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. Of these, 73 million have hypertension (high blood pressure), 16 million have coronary heart disease, 6 million have had at least one stroke and 5 million have been diagnosed with heart failure. Pretty grim statistics. But, it doesn't have to mean that your life is over. In fact, the majority of heart disease patients have discovered approaches for living with heart disease and gone on to live happy, healthy lives.
Living with heart disease means making changes to your activity levels, eating right and managing stress levels. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that all adults get at least 20 minutes of exercise, 5 times a week. Some popular activities include jogging, walking, cycling (both indoors and outside), yoga, weight training and swimming. If you're pressed for time, you don’t have to do all 20 minutes at one time. You can break it up into 1 or 2 sessions. Do you have trouble staying motivated? If so, try making a commitment to a friend or group to meet at the same time every day. Be sure to include an inclement weather plan so that you won't be able to use bad weather as an excuse not to exercise. Other ways to add more activity to your day are to take the stairs instead of the elevator, deliberately park further away from building entrances, get off the bus one stop before your destination and take the dog out for a walk!
Making changes to your diet is another great way to reduce your risk for heart disease. You'll need to reduce your fat intake (particularly saturated fat) to less than 20% of your total calories, restrict your sodium intake to fewer than 300 grams a day and increase the fiber content in all of the food you eat. Easy ways to begin eating a heart-healthy diet include looking for low fat selections on menus. Choose baked, broiled or grilled fish and meat instead of fried. Avoid any food that's battered or deep-fried. Don't be shy about asking for menu substitutions. Replace French fries with a baked potato, exchange creamy dressings with types that are made with oil and vinegar.
Many people who have suffered a heart attack led demanding lifestyles prior to the event. As part of your new lifestyle, you'll want to examine the choices you make in the workplace and how you spend your leisure time. While you'll probably be able to return to your old job, you may need to manage your stress levels by scaling back the number of hours you work and your responsibilities. If you smoke cigarettes, quit. Finally, consider learning how to meditate. Studies have shown that people who meditate often have significantly lower blood pressure than those who don't.
Having heart disease doesn't have to be the end of a happy, healthy life. In fact, it could be just the excuse you've needed for a new beginning. Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program and schedule a meeting with a registered dietician to determine how you can make positive, healthy changes to your diet. Your new life has just begun!