Friday, February 20, 2009

Staying Heart-Healthy

By Courtney Westlake

February is National Heart Month, and the perfect time to start living a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death among men and women in the United States. However, there are things you can do to significantly lower the chance of getting heart disease.

"A sedentary lifestyle is one of the number one reasons for heart disease," said Amanda Jillson, assistant director of fitness and instructional programs at TRAC. "So we want to be active and make conscience choices about what we are putting in our body."

There are many activities that are heart healthy, Jillson said. These include strength training, which is using weights or resistance to build muscle tone, and cardiovascular exercise, which include exercises like jogging, running, walking, using the step mill at the gym or a bicycle.

"Also stretching is very beneficial," Jillson said. "Flexibility exercises such as yoga, Pilates and just basic stretches will help strengthen your heart muscles and keep you healthy."

The benefits of staying heart-healthy and exercising for your heart health are endless.

"You can lower your blood pressure, strengthen the muscles in your body as well as the muscles around your heart, and reduce stress and tension and depression levels," Jillson said. "These activities also decrease your body fat percentages."

"Cardiovascular exercises increase your cardiovascular capacity," Jillson added, "which is the amount of oxygen that you can consume and process during exercise. It's a very good test to see how fit you are. So the more oxygen you can consume, the healthier your heart is."