LASATA: Be a heart-health role model

Published 9:26 am Friday, February 4, 2022

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Each year, cardiovascular disease claims the lives of more than 600,000 Americans.

Heart disease affects all ages, genders, and ethnicities. Common risk factors include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, and excessive alcohol use. Unfortunately, many people possess one or more of these risk factors.

As we observe American Heart Month this February, it’s an ideal time to talk with our family and friends about heart health and is an opportunity for parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, or even older brothers or sisters to become a heart-health role model to the younger kids who look up to them.

Taking steps to be a healthy role model can begin with something as simple as discussing daily activities and habits and discussing the family’s health history and applicable risk factors. A big part of becoming a heart-health role model is taking that first step and beginning those conversations.

Families can also adjust their daily routines to make them more heart-healthy. Getting outdoors for some fresh air and exercise is a great step in the right direction. We as Michiganders have access to a number of family-friendly outdoor activities that will provide an afternoon of exercise and fun. Whether it’s going to the park to play catch, taking a hike with the family dog, or the other countless ideas, kids are more likely to try or continue to do something they see the whole family enjoying.

Another recommendation is to maintain a healthy diet. Eating healthy is one of the more overlooked precursors to a healthy heart, and I encourage families to use mealtime as an opportunity to stress the importance of balanced meals and healthy ingredients.

In addition to advocating for a healthier lifestyle, American Heart Month also focuses on what to watch out for in the event of an emergency. Most people have been trained to recognize that extreme chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack — though there are many more, and men and women can experience different symptoms. Other symptoms include dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, pain in the lower chest, neck arms and upper abdomen, and extreme fatigue. Women are more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting and back or jaw pain.

The best way to decrease your odds is to get regular checkups. Although some risk factors for heart disease such as age, family health history and race cannot be avoided, other risks can be avoided or are very manageable.

Getting active, realizing and discussing risks, managing your cholesterol and blood pressure and limiting or eliminating other risk factors like smoking and alcohol consumption is a great way to lead by example and a chance to start some heart-healthy habits to make a permanent, positive change!

An ounce of prevention, as the saying goes, is worth a pound of cure. Following these simple but important recommendations can be lifesaving to you or someone you love.

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Sen. Kim LaSata, R-Coloma, represents the 21st state Senate District, which includes all of Berrien, Cass, and St. Joseph counties.