Prevent Heart Disease with Life’s Simple 7

There’s something about a bright-orange sunrise that can motivate even the most industrious among us to stop what we’re doing and simply soak up nature’s splendor. Dan Merritt is no exception, but he’s come to appreciate sunrises as much for their promise as their beauty.

“I love sunrises because they say, “Hey, you made it to another day.’”

Not that long ago, Dan wasn’t sure he’d live to see another sunrise.

Maintaining a healthy weight is critical in preventing heart disease. This 1-minute video offers five tips for making smart choices when eating out.

“We threw a Halloween party for my grandchildren,” remembered Dan. “I was sitting there drinking a glass of punch, and I noticed I was drooling down the side of my face.”

Dan couldn’t talk, but his frantic motioning told Barbara, his wife of 43 years, something wasn’t right.

At the hospital, doctors discovered Dan had suffered his second stroke of the day. As is often the case, the symptoms of the first stroke subsided quickly, so Dan ignored them.

Doctors couldn’t definitively diagnose Dan’s strokes that day, but they suspected an irregular heart rhythm. When he suffered a third stroke months later, they implanted a cardiac monitor and uncovered the cause: atrial fibrillation.

Dan’s doctors immediately adjusted his medication, and he’s been stroke-free ever since.

You don’t emerge from a serious health scare like a stroke without learning a few things. Dan is eager to share one simple piece of advice with all of us.

“Pay attention to your body. It’s always trying to tell you something. It could be things you’re doing great or things are going a little off kilter.”

Heart disease by the numbers

Strokes, heart attacks and heart failure are just a few conditions that fall under the cardiovascular disease umbrella. Collectively, these conditions represent the leading global cause of fatalities, claiming 17.3 million lives per year.

Here are some other eye-opening statistics about heart disease, courtesy of the American Heart Association:

  • Cardiovascular diseases claim more lives than all forms of cancer combined.
  • Someone in the U.S. dies from heart disease about once every 84 seconds.
  • About one in every three U.S. adults reports participating in no leisure time physical activity.
  • About 69 percent of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese.
  • Worldwide, tobacco smoking (including secondhand smoke) was one of the top three leading risk factors for disease, contributing to an estimated 6.2 million deaths in 2010.

Heart-healthy tips

Dan’s advice is consistent with the American Heart Association’s (AHA)proactive approach to preventing heart disease. Here are some more heart-healthy tips we can all follow every day:

Learn the signs: Heart attacks, cardiac arrest and strokes are life-threatening emergencies, so every second counts. Call 9-1-1 immediately if you experience any of the warning signs.

Follow Life’s Simple 7: The AHA recommends seven easy-to-embrace tips for reducing your risk of heart disease. Life’s Simple 7 include getting active, controlling your cholesterol, eating better, managing your blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing your blood sugar and giving up smoking.

Know your heart score: AHA medical experts designed the My Life Check tool to help you assess your heart health and move closer to your personal health goals. Simply provide some basic information about yourself, answer seven questions and get your heart score.

Focus on workplace wellness: We spend most of our waking hours at work. If we want to follow Life’s Simple 7, we have to learn to do it on the job, as well as at home. Employers can help by offering a workplace wellness program. The AHA offers a free suite of evidence-based tools to help you get the most out of your program.

Life is why

austin-mhml-lockupThe AHA is on a mission to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent and reduce deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent, by the year 2020.

In support of that mission, the AHA will host its annual Heart Walk fundraiser on Saturday, October 15. Approximately 1 million people in 300 cities across the country will participate. In fact, Texas Mutual will be well-represented at the Austin event, and we hope you will join us.

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