Heart to heart

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With heart disease now the leading cause of death in American women, it’s important to know that this condition is preventable. While some risks (such as family history, age or race) may not be modified, many risk factors are within your control. These risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, smoking, and mental stress.
Busy parents know that it can be challenging to make health a priority. However, there are plenty of healthy lifestyle changes that are easy to incorporate into your daily routine. Here are a few things you can do to improve your health and lower your risk of heart disease.
Start with a
satisfying breakfast
You’ve heard it before and perhaps you even say it to your children, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Why? It sets the tone for your day mentally and physically, making you more alert and revving up your metabolism (which can stimulate weight loss). Begin your day with a breakfast rich in fiber to help lower your blood cholesterol and help you feel full. Oatmeal, whole-grain toast or a high-fiber cereal topped with fruit or walnuts will do the trick.
Get moving
One of the top risk factors for heart disease is an inactive lifestyle. Moderate exercise for 30-60 minutes a day most days of the week will give your heart a healthy workout, strengthen your cardiovascular system, improve circulation, and lower blood pressure. Consistent exercise also aids in weight loss and mental health benefits, reducing stress and tension.
If adding exercise to your routine seems like a daunting task, break it down into manageable sessions. Several 15-minute workouts still produce benefits for the heart. Discover a type of exercise that you really enjoy and look forward to, then honor your exercise time as you would any other appointment.

Kick the habit
There are no two ways about it. Cigarette smoking is just not good for you. It increases blood pressure, decreases exercise tolerance, decreases HDL (good) cholesterol, and is the biggest risk factor for young women when it comes to heart disease. In fact, smokers have more than twice the risk for heart attack than nonsmokers.
Just relax
Stress can certainly take its toll on your health. In fact, it can contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease when not properly managed. That’s why it’s important to find calming activities that allow you to de-stress throughout the day. Whether it’s practicing deep breathing exercises in the morning, or winding down in the evening with a calming bike ride, find healthy activities that can be done individually or as a family to help relieve stress.
Developing heart-healthy habits doesn’t have to be a complete life overhaul. By just making a few small changes to your personal routine, you can get on track to a healthier lifestyle. Start slow, enjoy the changes and develop a new routine that will keep you and your entire family heart-healthy and happy. 

Dr. Tamirisa is a board-certified cardiologist and member of ProMedica Physician Group.