Health officials say exercise and a healthy diet reduces risk of heart attack and stroke

DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) – Cardiovascular disease is the number one leading cause of death in America.

“Every 36 second someone dies from cardiovascular disease in America and we need to work hard to prevent that,” Roland Spedale, M.D. Internal Medicine Doctor, said.

February is American Heart Month, celebrating the importance of having a healthy heart. Dr. Spedale said two key factors that can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by 54 percent are exercise and a healthy diet.

“Food is fun, but food is also medicine in the body,” Jessie White, dietician, said.

White said moderation is key. She said it is important to look at the medicinal effect’s food can have on the body.

“Things like broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, beans are probably one of my favorite things to recommend for heart health,” White said.

Reducing inflammation is one component when it comes to having a strong heart diet. White said the number one heart healthy food is plants.

“Ultimately, we want to build about half of our plate to be non-starchy vegetables,” White said. “They are full of fiber, that’s going to help your cholesterol levels, limiting our added sugars, our refined sugars and grains, cutting out the fried foods in the diets, those are the key things.”

When it comes to exercising, the American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of aerobic exercise. That averages out to about 30 minutes a day, five times a week.

The most common type or heart disease is clogged arteries. These symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, and pain in your jaw or arm.

Dr. Spedale said people who smoke clog arteries seven times faster than non-smokers.

“The most important thing anybody can do to decrease their risk of heart attack and stroke right now, with statistical evidence, is to quit smoking,” Dr. Spedale said. “By tomorrow you will have a decreased risk of heart attack and stroke.”

Genetics can also play a role when it comes to heart disease.

“There’s a heart attack gene, there’s a cholesterol gene, there’s an atrial fibrillation gene that can help us understand more of our risk,” Dr. Spedale said.

Untreated sleep apnea, anxiety and depression also have higher incidents as well.

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