NEWS | Feb. 1, 2016

Naval Health Clinic Charleston encourages heart-healthy lifestyles

By Tammy Gray and Linda Washington Naval Health Clinic Charleston

By the time you finish reading this article, 10 Americans will have had a heart attack - one person every 43 seconds; seven Americans will have died from a heart disease-related event - one person per minute.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Every year, about 735,000 Americans die from heart disease, which includes strokes, heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases. 

The basic function of the heart is to pump oxygenated blood through vessels that provide nutrients to our cells. Heart disease occurs when coronary arteries are blocked, narrowed or hardened due to plaque buildup.

Plaque is the accumulation of fat and cholesterol on the inner wall of an artery. Factors such as age, gender, heredity and race can contribute to heart disease and are uncontrollable. Excess weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, a sedentary lifestyle and smoking are also factors but can be controlled.

Two ways to fight heart disease and maintain a healthy heart are to have a balanced diet and an active lifestyle. Making just a few lifestyle changes can have long-term benefits for a person's health and their heart.

Diets should consist of a variety of foods that are nutrient-rich, meaning foods with minerals, proteins, whole grains and other nutrients. Nutrient-rich foods are also lower in calories, which can help control weight, cholesterol and blood pressure.

Examples of nutrient-rich foods are fruits and vegetables, whole grains breads or pasta, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry, fish, nuts and legumes.

In addition to incorporating nutrient-rich foods into a daily diet, it is also important to limit foods that are nutrient-poor or are high in calories but low in nutrients. Limiting saturated and trans-fat, sodium, red meat and sweets will compliment a healthy diet and lead to better health.  If red meats are consumed, selecting the leanest cut is a heart smart option.

Having an active lifestyle can also reduce the risk of heart disease and improve cholesterol, help with weight management and lower blood pressure. 

Just 30 minutes of aerobic exercise daily can have a significant impact on overall health and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Naval Health Clinic Charleston offers many resources to help patients maintain a heart healthy lifestyle, to include, smoking cessation fitness and nutrition classes. If you're a TRICARE beneficiary, and would like more information about these classes, contact the NHCC Wellness Clinic at 843-794-6910 or schedule a consultation with your primary care physician.