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Walking and Heart Disease

Walking and Heart DiseaseHeart disease was an omen flying over my house since I was a boy. My dad had a heart attack in his early 40’s. Now 80 he is still kicking, but not going strong. Modern medicine is amazing and the combination of drugs and pacemakers have kept him alive and kicking. His plight was my major motivation to stay fit, eat well and live an overall healthful lifestyle. Now in my mid-forties I do not want to be subjugated to a life of pill popping as genetics rears its ugly head. So far I have successfully kept heart problems at bay through a strict diet and healthful lifestyle full of exercise.

While there are many forms of heart disease with different sources throwing the term around loosely to cover a wide assortment of heart related problems, we will refer to heart disease as cardiovascular disease. Simply put, cardiovascular disease is the narrowing of the arteries by plaque buildup. This makes it harder to pump blood around and can lead to a complete blockage. When no blood can flow to the heart a heart attack occurs and if no blood flows to the brain a stroke occurs.

As Americans the statistics are not in our favor. Each year 600,000 Americans die of heart disease. It is the number cause of death for both men and women accounting for the cause of 25% of deaths in the USA. With almost one million Americans having a heart attack annually, the cost of care is astronomical. Over 100 billion dollars is spent annually on heart disease care.

Given the severity and risks of heart disease we are not going to prescribe treatment. Of course anyone suspecting heart disease or suffering from heart disease should be under the care of a physician. However, there are many life changes you can make that may reduce your risk of heart disease.

Start your changes with your diet. The old adage “garbage in equals garbage out” is an easy mantra. However, deciding what to do isn’t easy. Sure cutting down food containing high levels of saturated fats and cholesterol are a great start. So is increasing your intake of high fiber foods and reducing simple sugars. However, Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr.’s great book “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure" points out that many of the current accepted practices will slow heart disease but not prevent or reverse it. Check it out, it’s a great read. I've followed a lot, but not all of his advice. In doing so I cut my cholesterol down to 184 from a high of 239. Of course individual results will vary, but I did it all through diet as I was already exercising regularly.

If you smoke, quitting is key. Similarly, not abusing alcohol is also a big help. In addition, a regular exercise program will do wonders. This is especially true if you are overweight or obese.

What better way to exercise than walking. As always, check with a doctor before starting on any exercise program. Build up to 30 – 60 minutes 4-5 times a week. If you need to lose weight, you may want to walk more.

References
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-disease/DS01120
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Caregiver/Resources/WhatisCardiovascularDisease/What-is-Cardiovascular-Disease_UCM_301852_Article.jsp
http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/prevention.htm

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