A Healthy Heart

For many decades now, heart disease has been on the rise. The incidence of heart disease used to be more common in older people, but as the decades pass, the ages of people who develop heart conditions keeps dropping – even people in their 30s are now being diagnosed with one heart condition or another. Our sedentary lifestyles, stressful, fast-paced lives and dietary practices stand in direct correlation to the prevalence of heart disease. Although our physicians seem to constantly be chiding us on following a healthy lifestyle and getting regular exercise, so many of us put off this good advice to some day in the future. Today, it’s important to understand that heart disease can strike you even at a relatively young age. Keeping a healthy heart should be a lifelong pursuit which begins in childhood. Let’s take a look at the ABCs of a healthy heart.

If you take a look at the statistics regarding heart disease over the past several decades, it becomes apparent that a healthy heart does have a relationship to exercise. Up until the 1980s and early 1990s, kids were far more active than they are today. Riding bikes, participation in sports and playground activities were part of a kid’s daily life. As the couch potato syndrome developed, along with time spent at the PC and video games becoming the norm, kids became less inclined to get out in the fresh air after school, opting instead to sit in front of the tube or computer, adopting a sedentary lifestyle while still in their teens. It’s also notable that physical education is now an optional, instead of mandatory, class.

As parents, we need to insist that kids engage in regular, physical exercise on a daily basis. If you look at the statistics on overweight kids, a lack of sufficient exercise is one of the major culprits. As adults, we need to impose the same rules for ourselves – setting a good example, as well as keeping ourselves fit and avoiding heart problems down the road.

While we enjoy many benefits and conveniences of the modern day, there are also inherent pitfalls. For example, we all know that fast food and highly refined and processed food are rife with much more fats, sugars, additives and a host of preservatives which certainly do nothing to promote a healthy heart. Sure, we all indulge in the occasional ‘pizza night’ or fast food dinner to accommodate busy schedules, but this should not become the daily dietary practice. Freshly prepared meals, which are low in saturated and trans fats, along with those daily, 5-9 servings of fruits and veggies, go a long way towards keeping a healthy heart healthy. When you make heart-healthy meals the norm, rather than the exception, you’re much less likely to develop a heart condition at an early age. In fact, when you make regular exercise and a healthy diet a lifelong practice, chances are good that you’ll maintain a healthy heart well into your old age!

Benefits of Quitting Smoking

The benefits of quitting smoking are pretty intuitive, but the American Cancer Society would like you to be aware of just how many benefits there are. And while scientific research technically can’t prove that smoking causes cancer and overall bad health, everybody knows that it’s true because it’s a matter of common sense and more than just mere coincidence that smoking is strongly associated with developing cancer. But even if we know that it’s better to quit smoking, that doesn’t mean that it’s so easy to.

The reason it’s so hard to quit smoking is because of the addictive properties of nicotine. People can develop a physical or a psychological addiction to a drug, and with tobacco, they find themselves craving nicotine and developing an emotional dependence on it. At first, smoking gives people a high as the brain responds to the nicotine, but over time the body becomes accustomed to it and it needs higher and higher levels to achieve the same high that it used to at a lower level. They may also experience negative effects of withdrawal like headaches, shaking and insomnia, so smokers start to increase the amount that they smoke and it eventually becomes an addiction. The consequences of nicotine addiction are an increased risk of developing cancer, but there are many other consequences that are subtle but significant. You might find it harder to breathe, the smell of smoke surrounding you and pervading everywhere you go, your teeth becoming stained, impaired ability to think, less stamina, more anxiety, and less money due to spending it on cigarettes. And as you smoke, you’re also putting the people around you at risk, because other people can inhale the carcinogens and it can also be passed to an infant during pregnancy. Thus some of the benefits of quitting smoking are less risk of developing cancer, being able to breathe fresh air, your teeth looking whiter, the ability to think more clearly, more stamina, less anxiety, and money saved. When you stop abusing nicotine, you’ll realize that the benefits of quitting smoking extend to all areas of life, in terms of health, intelligence, social life and economics.

You can learn more about the benefits of quitting smoking by taking the Great American Smokeout Challenge, an event organized by the American Cancer Society which takes place on the 3rd Thursday of November. During this day, smokers quit smoking for 24 hours and participate in many activities like bonfires, rallies, athletic events, and talking with other people who are trying to quit smoking. It’s a time during which smokers can receive support and know that they’re not alone in trying to kick nicotine addiction.