Cardiovascular diseases are the number 1 cause of death globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives each year, according to the World Health Organization.
“Heart disease is a major cause for concern within the African American community,” said Dr. Branden P. Turner, a family medicine physician with Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Hill-Crenshaw Medical Offices. “As such, African American men and women need to better understand the causes of cardiovascular disease so that they can live longer and lead healthy lives.”
With February being American Heart Month, Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles offers the following lifestyle tips to help maintain good health and a strong heart:
• Did you know that lowering your weight by just 10 percent can make a significant difference in reducing your risk of heart disease? Maintain a healthy weight to lighten the load on your heart.
• Limit alcohol intake to no more than 2 drinks a day for men, and one drink a day for women. Excessive consumption of alcohol is bad for your health, as it can raise your cholesterol level and blood pressure.
• We all know smoking is bad for our health, as it’s a leading cause of heart disease and death. That’s why it’s never too late to stop! If you smoke, make a plan to quit.
• If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar under control.
• Try to get moderate aerobic exercise to strengthen your heart muscle. It’s recommended that you engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days. If you can’t do all 30 minutes at once, do 10 minutes at a time. Don’t exercise too much, too soon, however. Start at your comfort level and build up gradually.
• Eat heart-healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins (such as fish, beans, chicken, nuts and low-fat dairy), and whole grains. Use Kaiser Permanente’s Nourish Program to create your own personalized eating plan.
According to Dr. Turner, high blood pressure – dubbed as a “the silent killer” – is a main driver of heart disease. It is disproportionally high among Black men and women, of whom many are unaware of their condition as they typically exhibit no early symptoms.
High blood pressure dramatically increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, and 83 percent of Kaiser Permanente members diagnosed with high blood pressure have it under control, compared to 58 percent nationally. Kaiser Permanente has also eliminated racial disparities with hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, a risk factor for heart problems, according to a 2014 study.
Dr. Turner encourages everyone to talk to their health care providers about what constitutes a healthy diet, what type of exercise you should be doing, and making the right lifestyle changes to keep one’s heart strong and healthy. He stressed there’s no one size that fits all when it comes to maintaining good health and urged African Americans to be more proactive when it comes to monitoring their health.
“One thing is for certain,” he noted. “Heart disease should definitely be taken seriously. It’s also important to know that heart disease is preventable. The action you take today will have a big impact as to what happens to you in the future.”
For additional information about heart health, please visit kp.org.