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Make heart healthy in February

Mary LoVasco has tips to keep hearts healthy. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
February 16, 2011 - For Mary LoVasco of Clarkston, what's tragic about heart disease is it's so easily preventable.

"I lost a loved one to heart disease," said LoVasco, a personal fitness trainer. "It's so senseless to lose your life to something that could have been prevented."

February is Heart Month, a time to reconsider a heart healthy lifestyle.

"Know your numbers, cholesterol, blood pressure, waist circumference, body mass index, weight," LoVasco said. "Get on that scale. Don't smoke. Start moving."

Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women, according to the American Heart Association.

"Many people don't know that," LoVasco said.

According to the heart association, risk factors include family history, increasing age, smoking, heredity and race, high blood pressure and cholesterol, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, diabetes, and stress.

Also, one in three Americans have some form of heart disease, including angina, heart failure, stroke, high blood pressure, coronary disease, and other serious conditions.

Diet and exercise is key to preventing heart disease.

"The key is to move regularly, do something that's fun," LoVasco said. "Walk the dog, take the stairs, jog with a friend, play with your kids in the snow. Go cross-country skiing Independence Oaks and Indian Springs parks are just beautiful in the winter."

The heart association recommends 30-60 moderately intense exercise at least four days a week.

"You can break it up 10 minutes at a time in the morning and evening," LoVasco said. "When you were two years old, you couldn't wait to walk, it was the most natural thing to do. As we mature, it becomes the last thing we want to do. It's the first thing we need to get back to doing."

Strength training builds muscles and bone density, and eating more fresh fruit and vegetables helps keep weight down for a healthy heart.

"The basics so much is common sense," she said.

It's important for kids to get moving and eat right, as well as adults, she said.

"Children get too many sugary drinks and high-fat, highly processed food put in front of them by adults," she said.

Also recommended are whole grains, legumes, and nuts, olive oil and canola oil instead of butter, herbs and spices instead of salt, red meat no more than a few times a month, and fish and poultry at least twice a week.

"We can fight this disease," LoVasco said. "Begin now. Eat an apple a day. Go for a walk. Don't wait to be sick. Prevent, prevent, prevent."

For more information, call LoVasco at 248-770-4073 or the American Heart Association at 800-242-8721.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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