The following is a guest post by Chhanda Dutta, Ph.D., Chief, Clinical Gerontology Branch, National Institute on Aging (NIA), NIH and Janet M. de Jesus, M.S., R.D., Nutritionist, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), NIH
During February, American Heart Month, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) urges you to take action to keep your heart healthy.
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States. About 1 in 8 women aged 45-64 has heart disease, and 1 in 4 women will die from it. The good news is that every woman has the power to protect her heart health. It’s never too early — or too late — to act to prevent and control your risk for heart disease.
Also test your knowledge with our blood pressure quiz
Know Your Risk Factors
Talk to your doctor about your risk for heart disease. It is critical to know your risk factors — that is, the behaviors or conditions that increase your chances of getting heart disease. Then, through knowledge of your modifiable risk factors, you can make healthy lifestyle choices to help you prevent or delay disease. For example, you can:
- Take steps to control your blood pressure
- Know your cholesterol numbers
- Prevent diabetes
- Stop smoking
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Be more physically active
Adding physical activity or exercise to your daily routine is one important way to maintain your heart health. Just 30 minutes a day of physical activity can provide real benefits. It’s especially easy to do when you find activities you enjoy.
Types of Physical Activity
Physical activity falls into four basic categories — endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. Most people tend to focus on one activity or type of exercise and think they’re doing enough. Your goal is to be creative and choose exercises from each of the four types. Mix it up, and you’ll get more out of it. Learn more about the four types of physical activity.
Physical activity is good for healthy aging in many ways. It may help you:
- Have better heart health
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Maintain an independent lifestyle
- Reduce feelings of depression
- Improve some aspects of cognitive function, or brain health
No matter your health and physical abilities, you can gain a lot by staying active. In fact, in most cases, you have more to lose by not being active.
Also check out The New American Diet
Need Help Getting Started?
Many free resources are at your disposal. Go4Life® can help you make an exercise plan and stick to it. Start by setting personal short-term fitness goals. For example, you may need to buy walking shoes, pick up your walking pace, or increase the amount of weight you lift in order to reach your long-term goals. Try the sample Go4Life workout or make your own using our sample exercises. Be creative and have fun!