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While heart health and how to prevent heart disease are important topics, many people in the United States – African Americans, in particular – remain at risk.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African Americans ages 18-49 are almost twice as likely as Caucasians to die from heart disease. Additionally, about 33 percent of African Americans ages 35-49 and 61 percent ages 50-64 have high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.
However, there are many ways for you to lower your risk for heart disease, and one of the most important is by becoming physically active. National guidelines recommend at least 2 hours, 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week for adults, like brisk walking where your blood gets pumping and you are a little breathless. If you find yourself short of time, you can incorporate physical activity in small chunks, such as three 10-minute intervals per day, and still achieve some heart health benefits.
How Moving More Helps
When done regularly, physical activity can give your entire body – not just your heart – a boost. Getting your heart rate up and breaking a sweat can:
- Strengthen heart muscles
- Improve blood flow
- Lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Help control weight
Ways to Become More Active Every Day
In addition to working toward at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week, it’s important to avoid being sedentary, when possible. You can do that by making choices that build activity in your day. Some examples include:
- Taking the stairs
- Printing at the printer farthest from your desk at work.
- Getting off the bus one stop early
- Parking in the farthest space from the door
- Walking around while you are on the phone or having walking meetings
- Being active with your children, including playing outdoors
- Planning a vacation that includes physical activities
- Playing basketball or taking a yoga class with friends instead of meeting up for drinks or a meal
- Putting on some music and dancing
Check with Your Doctor
Certain physical activities are safe for most people. However, if you have a chronic health condition such as heart disease, arthritis or diabetes, talk with your doctor about the type and amount of physical activity that is right for your health.
Incorporating regular physical activity into your life can help your health in many ways, but it can be especially helpful for your heart. Find more heart-healthy facts and tips from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at nhlbi.nih.gov.
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