Are You At Risk For Heart Disease?

By Monica Mireles

According to The American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease also called heart disease includes numerous problems, many of which are related to a process called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a condition that develops when a substance called plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. This buildup narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through. If a blood clot forms, it can stop the blood flow. This can cause a heart attack or stroke.

Cardiovascular disease and stroke ranks as the No. 1 killer in Latinos.

As a public health professional, I work within the community to promote health and wellness.  I encourage my clients to get involved with their health.  Getting involved with your health is as simple as knowing your family health history and knowing ways to prevent or reduce the risk of illness and disease.  This preventative approach will enable you to live a longer, healthier, happier life.

Let’s start by learning to understand how the heart works.  The heart is a hollow, muscular, cone-shaped organ, about the size of a fist that sends blood to the lungs to pick up oxygen.  Then it delivers oxygen to all the cells in the body.  The heart is located in the middle of the chest that is a part of a circulatory system that carries blood throughout the body.  Since the heart is such an important pump in your body, you want to keep it free from heart disease.  When the heart stops, life stops.  So when you take care of your heart, you take care of your life.

The risk factors for heart disease vary.  Some of the risk factors for heart disease, like age, family history, and gender, are things that you cannot change.  But the good news is that there are some risk factors that you can do something about.  They are, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, being overweight or obese, diabetes, physical inactivity, and smoking.

Take these steps to prevent heart disease:

Blood Pressure: Check your blood pressure at least every 2 years or more often if you have high blood pressure.  Choose and prepare foods with less salt and sodium.

Blood Cholesterol: Get your blood cholesterol levels checked at least once every 5 years if you are age 20 or older.  Choose foods that are lower in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol.

Overweight: Get your BMI and wait measured every year.  Aim for a healthy weight.  Try not to gain extra weight.  A waist measurement of more than 35 inches for a woman and more than 40 for a man increases the risk of heart disease.

Diabetes: Find out if you have diabetes.  Diabetes is serious.  You may not know you have it.  It can lead to heart attacks, blindness, amputations, kidney disease, and heart attacks.

Physical Activity: Stay active.  30 minutes a day is all it takes to reduce your risk of heart disease.  Try walking, running, dancing, and playing sports.

Smoking: Stop smoking now or cut back gradually.  Cigarette smoking is addictive.  It harms your heart and lungs.  It can raise your blood pressure and blood cholesterol and those of others around you.

I hope you now have a better understanding of what heart disease is and how you can make changes to reduce the risk of heart disease for you and your family.


Holiday Indulgence without Weight Gain

Written By Erik Garcia | Photo By Katelyn Robertson

The holiday season is a time for friends, family and of course great food. Prior to the holidays most people have an excellent diet before caving in and indulging on these wonderful rich foods.

I am the first to admit that, even as a fitness professional, I indulge in cookies, pies and wine, but don’t let the treats during this time of year get me off track.

In order to stay fit and feel great, it is important to have a plan for preventing the holiday bulge. My 5-step plan helps stay on track with exercise and to maintain nutritional goals:

  1.  Water: It is important to stay hydrated daily. Drinking water is essential for digestion, helps to maintain healthy weight, to flush out toxins, and to deliver nutrients to cells. Start your morning with 12-16 ounces of water before having any another liquids.
    At the next holiday party, begin with a glass of water, add lemon or lime, and have water throughout the event. It is important to drink a glass of water between cocktails not only to prevent intoxication, but in order to stay hydrated.
  2. Drink: Keep it simple. There are hidden calories in most specialty cocktails that may lead to unwanted weight gain this holiday season. If you are a beer drinker, stick with light beer because one 12-ounce bottle has approximately 95-136 calories and you get the same great taste without the extra calories. Next, steer clear of sugar filled cocktails like a chocolate martini (438 calories), a margarita (200 calories), or a white Russian (400 calories). The best thing to do is keep it simple with red wine, favorite liquor on the rocks, or a Vodka and soda water.
  3. Snack: Have a well-balanced snack before you head to your next event, which should consist of a protein, a healthy fat, and a carbohydrate, such as 2-3 ounces of chicken breast, small handful of almonds, or half of an apple. This prevents overeating, which is typical at a holiday party, and from being quickly intoxicated.
  4. Graze: Don’t stand by the food. It is important to mingle with friends and family, and do not hover over the food. Grab a few items and walk around socializing for about 15 minutes before returning for a second serving. Not walking away, could result standing in front of the hors d’oeuvres all night long and overeating.
  5. Exercise: When pressed for time during the holidays, it is important to remain on a regular exercise schedule. Especially for those who are short on time, consider doing a High Intensity Interval Training Session (HIIT) that is designed at a high effort level to be completed in a short amount of time, and to burn calories post-exercise.

Try the following Tabata HIIT that only takes 16-20 minutes of actual workout time, so that’s only 36-40 minutes including the warm-up and cool down. The workout should be done as follows (See the demonstation video):

Complete 6-8 rounds of 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest of each of the following exercises. Complete the 6-8 rounds before moving on to the next exercise. The goal is to get the same number of reps for each set:

  • Squats
  • 20 foot Shuttle run (down and back is one rep)
  • Push-Ups
  • Sit-ups

Implement this 5-step plan throughout the holidays and you should be able to beating the
bulge and feel better than before. Look for more fitness tips on my website