NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–February has been designated as “American Heart Month” by the American Heart Association (AHA) to raise the awareness of heart disease and its risk factors. Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute estimates that the lifetime risk for developing coronary heart disease (CHD) is very high. They estimate that “one out of every two men and one out of every three women aged 40 and under will develop CHD” within their lifetimes, based on research from the Farmington Heart Study. This alarming statistic has no regard for race, color or religious affiliation, Christian or otherwise. If you are not aware of the risk factors and do not properly care for your body, you are at risk.
The AHA has divided the primary risk factors for CHD into two categories: uncontrollable and controllable.
Uncontrollable risk factors are ones that cannot be changed:
— Increasing age. Approximately 85 percent of people who die with CHD are age 65 or older.
— Male gender: Men are at a higher risk for CHD and die with the disease younger than women.
— Heredity (race): CHD tendencies can be passed to the next generation. African Americans are genetically at greater risk for high blood pressure and therefore at a greater risk for CHD than other races.
Controllable risk factors are lifestyle patterns that can be altered or controlled through healthy choices or medication to reduce your risk of CHD. These are:
— High blood pressure
— High blood cholesterol
— Obesity or overweight
— Physical inactivity
The more risk factors you have, the higher your chances of having CHD in your lifetime.
So, does all of this really matter to Christians? Certainly it does. 1 Corinthians 6:20 says, “Therefore honor God with your body.” It is difficult for a body with clogged arteries, high blood pressure, excess weight and weak muscles to honor God. Christians can honor God by caring for their bodies and avoiding or reducing the harmful effects of CHD.
Consider reducing your risk of heart disease by implementing these healthier habits:
— If you smoke, quit. Smoking pollutes your lungs and puts small tears in your arteries, trapping blood cholesterol and leading to clogged arteries.
— Check your blood pressure regularly. Manage high blood pressure by reducing the amount of sodium (salt and salty foods) in your diet, exercising at least 20 to 30 minutes each day, and taking any medications prescribed by your physician.
— Know your cholesterol numbers. Your doctor can check your cholesterol during your annual physical. Have your doctor break down the total cholesterol number into the good (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL) ratio. Manage high cholesterol by reducing the fat and increasing the fruits and vegetables in your diet, exercising and taking any prescribed medication.
— Keep your body weight within a healthful range. Ask your doctor to check your Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is a good indicator of a healthy weight. A BMI over 25 is considered overweight. A BMI over 30 is considered obese. If your weight is too high, take steps to bring it down by eating a low-fat, healthful diet. Monitor your portion sizes to decrease the amount you eat. Increase your activity level to burn calories. Get at least 20-30 minutes of exercise every day.
— Stay active with exercise. Even if your weight is in a normal range, inactivity is just as harmful to your body. Exercise is not just for weight loss. Exercise has many benefits, including strengthening your muscles, bones and heart, increasing your energy, maintaining your weight and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.
When we choose to honor God with our body, we choose to reduce the risk of CHD. For more information about heart disease prevention and treatment, visit the American Heart Association website at www.americanheart.org. For a biblically based lifestyle wellness plan to help you in making heart-healthy choices, check out “Fit 4: A LifeWay Christian Wellness Plan” at www.lifeway.com.
Branda Polk is a certified fitness instructor, wellness coach, author and speaker.