The Health Reporter Is In, Dec. 27, 2018


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Q: What changes can we resolve to make in 2019 for better heart health?

A: Here are five basics suggested by DR. UDAY KANAKADANDI, a cardiologist at Carle:

1. Sit less and move more.

Extended sitting has been linked to a shorter life, while regular exercise helps with weight loss and lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia and Alzheimer's disease, several types of cancer and some complications of pregnancy, according to the American Heart Association.

Exercise also helps with better sleep and bone health.

Young people should strive for an hour of aerobic exercise most days, Kanakadandi said. Older adults who are out of shape should strive to gradually increase activity, and those who find it difficult can break up exercise into 10-15 minutes at a time, he said.

2. Pay better attention to your daily diet and make it healthier.

The younger that starts, the more likely it will stick with you as a healthy habit for life, Kanakadandi said.

Another reason it's important to start this when you're young: Fatty streaks, the precursors of artery-clogging plaque, start early in young adults and sometimes even in teens, he said.

3. Strive to cut way back on sugary beverages and fast food.

Fast food tastes so good because much of it is loaded with unhealthy fats, carbs and salt, he said.

Excess added sugar contributes to obesity and has been linked to higher risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

"Once it becomes part of your lifestyle, it's going to be harder to shake it off," Kanakadandi said.

Limit added sugar to 100 calories a day (six teaspoons or 25 grams) if you're a woman and 150 calories a day (nine teaspoons or 36 grams) if you're a man, the heart association advises.

4. Don't smoke and don't vape.

"Smoking affects everything from head to toe," Kanakadandi said. "It's one of the most significant risk factors for heart attacks, premature coronary disease, stroke, blockages and multiple cancers."

Recent research has also suggested vaping may be harmful to heart health.

5. Drink less.

A lot of people think moderate alcohol consumption is good for them, but they end up overdoing it, the doctor said. If you drink, you shouldn't be having more than 1-2 drinks on any one day, "and you shouldn't be doing that every day," he said.

Moderate drinking has been defined as one drink a day for women (of all adult ages) and men over 65 and two drinks a day for men 65 and under.

Too much drinking can lead to heart failure, dangerous heart rhythms and weight gain, Kanakadandi said.

Liver disease, stroke and certain cancers have also been linked to excess drinking.