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Heart disease has remained the number 1 cause of death in the country. What is very alarming is that, more and more people of younger age are dying or getting sick of diseases of the heart.

Every year we celebrate February as the "Heart Month" to increase our awareness, so we can reduce the risk of having the disease. We can start by knowing the risks factors - some factors cannot be changed while others can..

Risks factors that you cannot change:
1. Age - if you are 40 years old and above.
2. Family History - it is hereditary and runs in the family.
3. Sex - men are more prone before age 40 while women after menopause.

Risk factors that you can change:
1. Smoking- if you smoke or live or work with people who smoke everyday. Smoking causes heart vessel constriction, increases heart rate and blood pressure. Nicotine in cigarette promotes blood clot formation while carbon monoxide reduces available oxygen for the heart.

2. Cholesterol Level - if you have high levels of Total Cholesterol and LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein or "Bad Cholesterol"). Bad Cholesterol maybe deposited and stored which may lead to plaque formation.

3. Blood Pressure - if you have blood pressure of 140/90 mm Hg or higher or have been told that your BP is too high. Hypertension may lead to heart attack.

4. Overweight and Obesity - if you are 20 pounds or more overweight. Overweight is highly associated with hypertension and heart disease.

5. Diabetes - if you have diabetes or used medicines to control your blood sugar. Diabetes mellitus is associated with heart disease.

6. Physical Inactivity - if you have a sedentary lifestyle and don't exercise regularly. The risk of developing heart disease is less among people who are physically active than in those who are sedentary.

7. Dietary - if you love to eat highly refined, fatty, and salty foods. Foods with minimal amount of dietary fiber, high fat and sodium are considered risk factors.

Being aware of the risk factors is a positive step towards a healthy heart. The Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI-DOST) developed a manual entitled "Dietary Guidelines for the Prevention of Heart Disease and Diabetes". These are as follows:

  • Prepare and eat foods that are low in fat and cholesterol. Fat should contribute about 20-25% of the total calories we eat. Fat from plant sources like peanuts, soybeans, cottonseed, corn, safflower, and from fish oil are better than animal fat.
  • Eat foods that are high in fiber. Fibers especially the soluble ones have cholesterol-lowering properties and are found in most fruits, vegetables, beans and grains.
  • Limit intake of salty foods. Sodium in salt causes hypertension when taken in excess. Convenience foods like tocino, longanisa, sausage, hotdog, ham, bacon and the like are rich in salt.
  • Always maintain an ideal weight. Overweight or obese persons are more prone to heart disease.
  • Exercise regularly. A15-30 minutes of physical exercise, 3-4 times weekly, can help reduce your risks for heart disease. It also lowers blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Stop smoking. Cigarette smoking is the most important preventable cause of coronary heart disease that often leads to heart attack.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. Drinking a lot will most likely develop high blood pressure and eventually heart disease.
  • Visit your doctor regularly. If you have one or two of the risks of developing heart disease, have regular check-up of your blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar so that early treatment can be done.

Now is the right time to make these necessary changes in our dietary habits and daily activities. Putting them to practice is very hard to do. But even a small improvement in the eating and exercise habits is a positive step towards the right direction. Tomorrow can be very late.

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