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Healthy hearts

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman BrieAnna Stillman
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
February is not only the month of “love”, but also nationally known as heart health month. Many Americans do not know that the leading cause of death in the United States is, in fact, heart disease.

Although heart disease is a problem in the U.S., there are many ways to prevent heart illness that can be worked into a regular routine.

There are seven steps known as “Life’s Simple 7” that the American Heart Association promotes in order to bring awareness to the importance of taking care of your heart.

As military members, staying mission ready is vital. Working on “Life’s Simple 7” can dramatically improve the overall health of service members and their families.

“Life’s Simple 7” consists of physical activity, weight management, cholesterol control, managing blood pressure, reducing blood sugar, and reducing or eliminating tobacco use.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and American College Sports, when it comes to physical activity and weight loss, the average person should perform 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week to maintain a healthy weight. To lose weight, it is suggested a person does 300 minutes a week of moderate aerobic exercise or 150 minutes of vigorous exercise.

Maintaining cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels can be done during routine checkups with a physician who can explain if something is too high or too low and what one’s levels should be.

Many times, maintaining those levels includes monitoring one’s diet. Everybody is different, so figuring out body mass index through a “bod pod” or with body measurements can help specifically gage where one’s body is health-wise.

Penny Hardin, 20th Aerospace Medicine Squadron health promotion program coordinator, suggests using MyPlate as a way to see which foods people should be consuming and proper portion sizes to maintain or lose weight. The more fat that is on a person’s body, the harder their heart has to work.

The human heart is a vital organ that pumps blood throughout the body, supplies oxygen and nutrients, and removes carbon dioxide and other wastes.

The last step of “Life’s Simple 7” is the reduction or elimination of tobacco. The use of any kind of tobacco is very harmful to the heart and body as a whole. There are many programs in place throughout military installations to help members quit tobacco usage.

Just 20-30 minutes after someone quits smoking, the body starts to repair itself. After 48 hours, sense of taste and smell improves. Between two weeks to three months after quitting, circulation of lung function and stamina improves, and after just one year, the risk of heart disease drops to half that of a smoker’s.

“You’re never too young to start thinking about your health,” said Hardin. “If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will.”

If one does not have access to an installation, they can contact the American Lung Association quit line at 1-877-695-7848. For more information on heart health, health promotions can be reached at 803-895-1216.