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February is American Heart Month. It reminds all Americans that promotion of heart health is the most critical prevention tool we have available today in cardiovascular medicine, according to Valentin Fuster, M.D., Ph.D., a global leader in the field of cardiology for more than three decades.
Dr. Fuster serves as director of Mount Sinai Heart and Physician-in-Chief of the Mount Sinai Hospital, and is the next editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC). He is past president of the American Heart Association and past president of the World Heart Federation.
To help prevent heart disease, the No. 1 killer of people around the globe, Dr. Fuster urges all adults to do just three things daily to prevent cardiovascular disease. In addition, Dr. Fuster has three top recommendations for parents on how to protect their child’s heart from heart disease and its biggest culprit— obesity.
Three Tips for Adults
1. Exercise daily.
Men and women need to stay active daily. Physical activity and aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes a day needs to be part of your everyday routine. This may include exercising at the gym, brisk walking, bicycling, or swimming. Find an exercise activity that you love and do it daily.
2. Eat healthy.
Making healthy nutritional choices daily is vital for your health. A diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, and water, should be part of a daily heart- healthy diet. Everyone should avoid food with excessive fat, sugar, and salt. Also, limit soft drinks and fast-food consumption.
3. Avoid tobacco smoke.
Smoking tobacco leads to heart disease. Cigarette smoke narrows and damages the arteries of the body. It is important that you do not smoke or stop smoking.
Everyone needs to reduce their exposure to second-hand smoke, which research shows is associated with coronary-artery calcification—a build-up of calcium in the heart’s arteries, which indicates heart disease.
Three Tips for Children
1. Start early.
Parents need to start heart-disease prevention early for their children, especially for the prevention of the serious risk factor of obesity, when your child is 3 to 5 years old. Ensure that the child has heart-healthy eating habits and exercise is part of the child’s daily routine.
2. Provide good nutrition.
Parents need to introduce daily healthy food and snack options to their children early, including colorful fruits, vegetables, and water. Avoid giving children access to food with excessive fat, sugar, and salt. Also, limit soft drinks and fast-food consumption. Eating and preparing dinner together with your children can instill and ensure good eating habits for the entire family.
3. Reduce sedentary lifestyle.
Make sure to play with your child to encourage physical activity. Encourage daily aerobic activities such as walking, bicycling, skating, and swimming. Also, limit the child’s time spent watching television and playing on the computer.