Cmdr. Connie Scott, MSM, RD, MSC, Health Promotion and Wellness Department Head, Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center and Sally Vickers, MS, CHES, Public Health Educator, Health Promotion and Wellness Department, Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center
Heart disease is currently the number one killer of men and women in the United States.1 Heart disease is a build-up of fatty plaque in your arteries that restricts blood flow, which can eventually lead to chest pain, blood clots, heart attack, and stroke. One in every four deaths is due to a heart attack or stroke that was caused by heart disease.1
The risk factors for heart disease are well known. Some of them, such as gender, age, and family history are outside of your control. Medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, elevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol known as the “bad” cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes are controllable, and in some cases even preventable with lifestyle changes. We’ll discuss some changes you can make in your daily behaviors that can lead to a healthier heart and lower your risk of heart disease.
Why is it Important to Maintain a Healthy Heart Now?
At least one third of the nearly 600,000 lives lost to heart disease each year could have been prevented.2 As Sailors and Marines, your health is mission critical. You can improve your heart health at any age through behaviors that include a nutritious diet, moderate to vigorous physical activity most days of the week, maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress, and living a tobacco free lifestyle.
You can find more information and resources about heart health in the HPW Heart Health toolbox. For additional information about the risk factors of heart disease and lifestyle changes you can adopt to maintain a healthy heart check out HPW’s Heart Health fact sheet.
Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Heart
By making healthy choices, you can burn body fat, increase circulation, strengthen your heart, reduce LDL cholesterol, and lower your blood glucose, which can help diminish or prevent heart disease in a majority of cases. Despite this evidence, numerous service members still make unhealthy choices5 and increase their risk of heart disease. Make sure you’re not one of them by making the following healthy lifestyle choices:
- Make small changes to your diet. Select low-fat or fat-free dairy products, lean meats, and poultry without skin. Cook by baking, broiling, boiling, or grilling instead of frying to reduce total fat, trans-fats, and saturated fats. Check out these recipes.
- Aim for 150–250 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every week to reduce chronic disease factors and prevent weight gain.
- Reduce your caloric intake by 500–1000 calories a day to lose 1–2 pounds per week.
- Quit smoking! Within two years of quitting, the risk of cardiovascular disease is substantially reduced, and after 15 years the risk returns to that of a non-smoker.
- Use relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises or meditation to help manage stress.
Please contact your health care provider, medical treatment facility (MTF), or health promotion coordinator for information about ways to keep your heart healthy. Additional resources are also available in the HPW Heart Health toolbox.
“Getting to the Heart of It: Preventing Heart Disease and Promoting Heart Health” Webinar
This month, in recognition of the importance of maintaining a healthy heart, the Health Promotion and Wellness Department of the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center, in collaboration with the Air Force Medical Support Agency, Navy Medicine, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Million Hearts® Initiative, will host a webinar entitled “Getting to the Heart of It: Preventing Heart Disease and Promoting Heart Health.” Taking place on 18 February 2015 from 1130-1300 ET, the webinar is designed for health educators; health promotion coordinators; nurses and dietitians in military health care settings; independent duty corpsmen (IDCs), independent duty medical technicians (IDMTs), combat medics, health care specialists; and Semper Fit staff to discuss the burden of heart disease in the United States, resources and programs to prevent heart disease and promote heart health, and how to recognize symptoms. Visit our HPW Webinars Web page to learn more about the webinar or to register to attend.
To view the webinar on the day of the event, click on or copy and paste the following link: https://connectcol.dco.dod.mil/hearthealth/.
The webinar is designated for Certified Health Education Specialists (CHES) to receive up to 1 Category 1 CECH.
1 Heart Disease Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm. Updated 29 October 2014. Accessed December 2014.
2 Vital Signs: Preventable Deaths from Heart Disease & Stroke. http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/vital_signs.htm. Updated 13 March 2014. Accessed December 2014.
3 High Blood Pressure Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_bloodpressure.htm. Updated 3 January 2014. Accessed December 2014.
4 Cholesterol Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_cholesterol.htm. Updated 26 July 2013. Accessed December 2014.
5 EpiData Center Department, Navy Marine Corps Public Health Center. Fleet and Marine Corps Health Risk Assessment 2013. http://www.med.navy.mil/sites/nmcphc/Documents/health-promotion-wellness/general-tools-and-programs/HRA2013-annual-report.pdf. Published 2014. Accessed December 2014.