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Healthy Heart for life: February’s Health Month

Heart Health Website Graphic

Heart Health Website Graphic

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- Living a healthy lifestyle is not always an easy step to take. However, a few simple changes in your daily routine can help improve overall health might prevent future heart problems.

While doctors and nutritional experts may be able to help reduce heart problems, they cannot cure them.

“The heart is responsible for circulating the blood throughout the body, providing oxygen and nutrients to all the other organs,” said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Gilberto Patino, cardiology consultant for the Air Force Medical Service and the 959th Medical Operations Squadron chief of cardiology. “Maintaining a healthy heart increases the chances for a long and active life.”

According to Patino, a poorly functioning heart can result in many symptoms that can limit a person’s ability to participate in physical activities. Having an unhealthy heart can also increase a person’s risk of dying.

One step toward preventing any chance of heart hazards is to identify and control any risk factors. It is important to know your risk factors for developing heart disease, Patino said.

“Some risk factors such as age, gender, and family history cannot be modified, but many other risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, being overweight, physical inactivity, smoking, and poor diet can be aggressively managed and significantly reduce your risk for heart disease,” he explained.

Regular exercise is also very important, according to the American Heart Association.

It recommends that adults participate in at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150 minutes per week. The association also estimates that less than 50 percent of American adults reach this goal. Regular exercise strengthens the heart, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, and promotes maintaining a healthy weight.

People should also strive to maintain a healthy diet, Patino advised. When making diet changes, consider making a few small changes at a time as this will increase the chances of maintaining the changes overtime.

“Basic diet recommendations include avoiding excessive calories and limiting salt intake,” Patino said. “Healthy food choices include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes, and non-tropical vegetable oils.”

People with a history of cardiovascular disease should be very diligent about controlling risk factors that can lead to disease progression. They should adopt healthy lifestyle changes to include regular exercise and a heart healthy diet. It is also important to follow-up regularly with your health care provider and comply with any medical therapy prescribed, he added.

Throughout February’s Heart Health Month the Air Force Medical Service will be sharing numerous facts and helpful tips for your heart that can be found on their website, www.AirForceMedicine.AF.Mil.

For additional information on healthy living, go to the American Heart Association website, http://www.heart.org/heartorg or our AFMS educational sites at http://www.airforcemedicine.af.mil/Healthy-Living/Education.