Editorial: Young at heart

February marks American Heart Month, offering encouragement to those of us who resolved last month to live healthier lives. Heart disease, which is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States, is not something that happens overnight. It takes decades to develop, which gives us the opportunity to turn things around if we are headed in the wrong direction.
It would be hard to find someone who doesn’t know the drill:
Eat healthy foods.
Make time to exercise.
Get checked out by your doctor.
Accomplishing those goals can be a challenge.
When it comes to food, enlist some support. Let family members know you are trying to make healthy choices. If you see a loved one eating poorly, try a gentle, loving nudge. Maybe offer to do the grocery shopping, or do it as a team to encourage one another. Are there teens in the family who might be going off to college and who might have a mini-fridge to stock? Taking them food shopping could be an eye-opening experience.
Exercise can be really difficult to fit into our schedules. But it’s worth it. Exercise not only positively affects heart health, it also boosts mood and keeps your body stronger as you get older. According to the Centers for Disease Control, adults should aim for getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity — like a brisk walk — each week, or about 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Try a family fitness challenge and compete with each other to see who can get the best results.
See your doctor. For some, this can be the hardest step of all. Men, especially, are known to avoid a trip to the doctor. But what you don’t know could possibly kill you.
High blood pressure is one of the diseases people often do not know they have, and it can affect more than your physical health. Research indicates having high blood pressure in midlife can lead to dementia later on. It also raises the risk for heart attacks, stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, and other problems.
Finally, while bad habits like smoking, drinking too much alcohol, or getting too much sun can make us look and feel older than our years, taking care of our hearts can make us feel younger. The CDC says that, on average, Americans have hearts seven years older than they should be. Curious where you fit in? A short quiz that will tell you: http://bit.ly/2lJr2ib.
You can turn that around and be young at heart. Your family will love you all the more for it.