Susie Noel-Simmons, cardiac fitness specialist, talks with a patient at CORE Consult on behalf of the Bermuda Heart Foundation. *Photo supplied
Susie Noel-Simmons, cardiac fitness specialist, talks with a patient at CORE Consult on behalf of the Bermuda Heart Foundation. *Photo supplied
Heart disease and high cholesterol were once considered disorders of our senior citizen population. Young folks in their 30s and 40s didn’t even give them a second thought, but not anymore.

With the advent of modern technology people are living sedentary lifestyles, sitting in front of their computers all day with little or no exercise, while eating processed high fat laden foods.

The fact is that many cases of heart disease and heart attacks could be completely and easily avoided by simply watching what and how much we eat, and engaging in a regular exercise regime.

The risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and obesity, all of which can be combated by regular exercise and body fat loss.

When we exercise, our bodies create more HDL (high density lipoproteins), which is the good kind of cholesterol. Think of HDL as the street sweepers of the blood, the more HDL we have, the more LDL (low density lipoproteins) the bad kind of cholesterol is swept to our liver and removed by the body.

In addition, as we exercise, we actually work out our heart —the heart is a muscle!

Did you know that the average adult heart beats 72 times a minute, 100,000 times a day, 3,600,000 times a year and 2.5 billion times during a lifetime?

The heart is an amazing muscle that needs tender loving care.

Heart disease may be the leading cause of death in Bermuda and around the globe, but that doesn't mean you have to go down without a fight. There are some risk factors that you cannot change such as family history, age, gender or ethnic origin, but you can always work towards limiting your risk. 

Take steps today to avoid heart disease. As Dr. Oz  (Oprah’s doctor) always says, “It is easier to prevent than it is to cure.”

1. Prevention pays

Heart disease is 95 per cent avoidable. Following a heart-healthy lifestyle doesn't have to be complicated. Find ways to include heart-healthy habits into your lifestyle and you may well enjoy a healthier life for years to come. 

2. Don't smoke or use tobacco products.

Smoking or using other tobacco products is one of the most significant risk factors for developing heart disease. When it comes to heart disease prevention, no amount of smoking is safe. Smokeless tobacco and low-tar and low-nicotine cigarettes also are risky, as is exposure to second-hand smoke.

3. Get active

Regularly participating in moderately vigorous physical activity can reduce your risk of fatal heart disease. And when you combine physical activity with other lifestyle measures such as maintaining a healthy weight, the payoff is even greater.

4. Eat a heart-healthy diet

When you are told that you need to go on a diet, the first thing you automatically think of is all the things you will have to give up.

Eating heart-healthy is not a diet; you don’t need to deprive yourself of the foods you love. Enjoy everything in moderation; look for ways to remove 100 empty calories per day and you will make a dramatic difference in your health profile. 

Drink less soda and more water; keep grapes at your desk for a quick snack, instead of that bag of chips or that chocolate bar. Try to eat as clean as possible, no heavy cream or cheese sauces or things drowning in butter.

If you want to follow healthier eating, check out the Mediterranean diet. It is packed full of yummy foods that are tasty as well as heart-healthy. By eating heart-healthy, you will eventually notice clothes fitting looser, your waistline shrinking. Throw away the scale and let your clothes be your guide. You will lose weight holistically.

5. Maintain a healthy weight

We are creatures of our genetic gene pool. Some of us were born of parents with great metabolisms. I often do speaking engagements with a local doctor, who is 5ft 5in with a slender build. She says that she is built just like her mother. I, on the other hand, have the genetic thighs of my father’s side of the family. Let’s just say I could never wear corduroy.

Genetics loads the gun; lifestyle pulls the trigger. Know your Body Mass Index or (BMI). Go on line and look for a BMI calculator, aim for a body weight that will keep you in the healthy range. Get regular health screenings.

Heart disease is a silent killer. You could be sitting at your desk one day feeling like you are on top of the world and the next day be found dead at that same desk. Heart disease is a matter of the heart; it takes into consideration the way you have lived your life, the food you have eaten, the amount of exercise you have performed. Coronary heart disease is the build-up of plaque/fat in your arteries; it is unmanaged high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Left unchecked, it damages your heart with no external signs.

Without testing for them, you probably won't know whether you have these conditions. Regular screening can tell you what your numbers should be, where you are and whether you need to take action.

The Bermuda Heart Foundation has recently opened the first cardiac prevention and rehabilitation centre because sometimes we all need a little help.

For more information call 232-2673.