June is Men’s Health Month. Physical inactivity, high blood pressure, and smoking are risk factors for heart disease, the number one killer of men in America. Over time, fat and cholesterol can build up in your blood vessels. When arteries that supply the heart and brain with blood become clogged, a heart attack or stroke can occur. These risk factors can be reduced by living a healthy lifestyle. Here are some tips from Valley Baptist Health System that can help men improve their heart health.
Exercise is a must. It can help keep your body’s blood vessels open and help prevent heart disease or stroke. Exercise reduces your risk of developing heart disease and lowers you risk of developing high blood pressure.
Exercise raises your good cholesterol and lowers your bad cholesterol. It lowers the amount of fat in your bloodstream, helps you lose extra weight, which can strain your heart, and makes your heart and lungs work more efficiently.
Walking, stair-climbing, dancing, jogging, and other activities of at least moderate intensity can also help you prevent or manage several chronic diseases that become more common with age: type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and arthritis.
Both your body and mind can benefit from exercise.
Exercise can help you manage stress, make your life more enjoyable, boost your self-image and help counter anxiety and depression.
The Centers for Disease Control and the American Heart Association recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity, 4 to 5 days a week. They also recommend moderate to high intensity muscle strengthening activity at least 2 days a week.
Examples of moderate activities include:
• Doing housework
• Ballroom dancing
For increased benefit to your heart and lungs, try more vigorous aerobic activities like:
• Jogging or running
• Swimming laps
• Bicycling briskly
• Aerobic dancing
• Cross-country skiing
Use these tips to move toward a more active life:
• Choose activities you like. The key to starting and sticking with an exercise program is to pick activities that you enjoy. Then choose a convenient time and place to work out. Try to make exercise a habit.
Finding an exercise partner may make it easier to stick to a regular schedule.
• Build up your endurance. Start out by exercising slowly, especially if you haven’t been active for a while. This will allow your muscles to warm up. Gradually build up how hard, how long, and how often you exercise. Be careful though. Overdoing exercise increases the risk of injury. Listen to your body, and don’t ignore any pain in your joints, ankles, feet, or legs.
• Drink plenty of water. While you exercise, drink some water every 15 minutes, especially in hot, humid conditions. Be sure to drink before you feel thirsty. You can’t always rely on thirst alone to tell you when you need more fluids.
• Check with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program. This is especially important if you have been inactive for a while.
It is also important if you have a chronic health problem like heart disease, diabetes, or obesity, or if you are at high risk for developing these problems.
If you have any chest pain or discomfort during exercise that goes away after you rest, call your healthcare provider right away.
If your exercise-induced chest pain does not go away with rest, call 911.
This can be a sign of heart disease and a heart attack.
In addition to exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, one low in fat and calories, is another weapon for fighting cardiovascular disease, stroke and many other conditions.