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.
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