Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 25, 2013
To conclude American Heart Month, we’re featuring ten health tips that were presented by Brigham and Women’s Hospital women’s health experts, Dr. JoAnne Foody and Dr. Paula Johnson, at the Boston Go Red for Women Educational Forum. (Go Red for Women, sponsored by the American Heart Association, occurs each February to educate all women about the need to take care of their hearts.)
Men take note, these tips can benefit you, too – heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Check back with us as we publish new tips through the end of February.
1. DON’T SMOKE: IF YOU DO SMOKE, STOP.
Smoking promotes multiple medical problems, including chronic health issues like heart attack, stroke, osteoporosis, and cancer. The same is true for all tobacco-containing products, from cigars to chewing tobacco. Secondhand smoke should also be avoided. Improvements in health, including lifespan and activity level, begin the day you quit. While quitting should be the goal, even simply decreasing the number of cigarettes you smoke can improve your life. Preventive efforts, like lowering cholesterol, may be especially effective in decreasing risk for smokers and former smokers.
TIP: If you’ve tried quitting, keep trying! Research shows it takes an average of three to five tries to quit. If you’re struggling, ask your doctor for help.
2. EAT REAL FOOD.
In his book, In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan said it all in the first seven words: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” One hundred and fifty pages later, he added, “Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” That eliminates much of the refined and processed foods that cause many of our diet-related health problems. Unfortunately, many of us eat far more food products than actual foods. Try sitting down for a meal with people you care about, eat slowly, and savor every bite. Check out the Mediterranean diet. Solid scientific evidence shows it cuts heart disease in HALF!
TIP: “Diet” is a four-letter word! Rather than go on a diet, start thinking about eating intelligently (see Pollan’s seven words, above). You may develop new habits that last a lifetime.
3. EVERYTHING IN MODERATION.
The power of adopting even modest lifestyle changes that you can sustain permanently is remarkable. Thirty minutes of moderately brisk (15-20 minutes/mile) walking daily, one alcoholic drink per day or less for women and two or less for men, and maintaining a healthy body weight by eating a nutritious diet can have an astonishing impact on reducing risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, depression, and even cognitive decline.
TIP: In adopting healthy behaviors, start slowly, increase gradually, avoid fads, and always “keep your eye on the prize” of sustainability. And always wear sunscreen when outside, one with an SPF of at least 30 that blocks both UVA and UVB radiation.
Other health tips from Dr. Foody and Dr. Johnson: