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The leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, heart disease accounts for 25% of the total deaths each year. Although Americans from all backgrounds can be at risk, African American men are at the highest risk for heart disease. Differences in culture, lifestyle, and genetics have an impact on the cardiovascular health of all races, but African Americans have some of the highest risk. However, heart disease can often be prevented when people make healthy choices and manage their health conditions.

Things to know about heart disease

  • Since the 1980s, fewer Americans have been dying of heart disease and stroke, thanks to progress in medical therapies and from lifestyle changes.
  • CVD accounted for more deaths than any other major cause of death in the United States, in every year since 1900 except 1918.
  • An estimated 85.6 million people are living with cardiovascular diseases, including heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and chest pain in the U.S.
  • 32.6 percent among U.S. adults have high blood pressure. That comes to about 80 million individuals.
  • Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death for African-American women, killing over 48,000 annually.
  • 48 percent of women and 46 percent of men among African-Americans adults, have some form of cardiovascular disease.
  • 48.3% of African-American women ages 20 and older have cardiovascular disease. Yet, only 14% believe that cardiovascular disease is their greatest health problem.
  • Only about 50% of African-American women are aware that pain that spreads to the shoulders, neck, or arms is a sign of a heart attack.

Heart Disease – Make the difference

  • Schedule a visit with your doctor to talk about heart health. It’s important to schedule regular check-ups even if you think you are not sick.
  • Partner with your doctor and health care team to set goals for improving your heart health. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and trust their advice.
  • Take medication as prescribed by your doctor. If you’re having trouble taking your medicines on time or if you’re having side effects, ask your doctor for help.
  • Exercise is a must to your daily routine. A good and simple form of exercise is to walk 15 minutes, 3 times each week. After 15 days, increase your time to 30 minutes, 3 times each week.
  • Increase healthy eating. Cook heart-healthy meals at home at least 3 times each week and make lower sodium your favorite recipe. For example, substitute salt for fresh or dried herbs and spices.
  • Quit smoking. If you currently smoke, quitting can cut your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Eat to your heart’s content

The perfect gift this Valentine’s Day is the gift of heart health. What better time to show the love for yourself and loved ones by learning how to eat and cook for a healthier heart. Here are 3 simple steps that you can take today.

Load your shopping cart with healthy food

It’s easy to ” load your shopping cart with healthy food” by selecting foods that fuel your heart with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, polyphenols and other phytonutrients – like vibrant colored fruits and veggies, fatty fish, whole grains, unsaturated oils, nuts, seeds, beans, red wine, concord grape juice and tea When thinking about eating for a healthy heart, think farm-to-table – foods in their purest and most natural form.

Cut back on Sodium

Excess sodium in your diet can contribute to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. You should aim for less than 2000 milligrams of sodium each day. Limit canned veggies, soups, high sodium condiments and processed foods. Forget the salt shaker and pick up the pepper shaker. Enhance the flavor of food and cut down on salt when cooking by using herbs, spices, nuts, fruits, extracts and vinegars.

Differentiate between good and bad fat

Good fats can help to lower your cholesterol level, which in turn can help to protect against heart disease. Some foods are excellent sources of specific good fats, so familiarize yourself with the different types of these fats. Examples of good fat include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in fatty fish, olive and canola oil, nuts, seeds and avocados.

Bad fats on the other hand, raise your cholesterol level, which can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. Examples of bad fat include saturated and trans fats found in foods from animal origin, butter, margarine, shortening, cream, pre-packaged cookies, cakes and pies.

However remember, fat is calorically dense and extra weight contributes to heart disease so watch your portions.

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