Thursday, January 21, 2010

Your Body is Your Nation

"He who has health, has hope. And he who has hope, has everything." --- Arabian Proverb


So, Americans, health-wise, you're pretty much on your own. Well, so are so many of the rest of us, globally.

Our bodies are our most precious possession. And yet many of us treat our motor vehicles with much greater care. What vehicle is more important than the body we live in?

A victim of the political wars, there probably will be no new US national health plan, after all the sound and the fury. Where does that leave unprotected US citizens? With a personal responsibility for the future of their own health.

And for everyone, worldwide, how do we protect our health, with or without insurance? Everyone should become proactive in health--- each of us, insured or not, should make our body our own health plan.

What we eat, how we exercise, how we feel and act, all are so important. We all know this. But more than ever now, in a failing economic system, we may each find ourselves becoming our own health plan, our own health protector.

And the very best insurance we can own is the kind of lifestyle that fends off disease.

You can't buy this kind of insurance. You live it. You earn it.

The American Heart Association has just released a new measure of health factors and behaviors. This is an incredibly useful health tool for anyone, anywhere.

In a minute, you can assess your overall cardiovascular health, with the AHA's 7-point checklist. Anyone can use it.

The AMA plan is designed to improve average US cardiovascular health by 20 percent. It hopes also to lower US cardiovascular disease and stroke death by 20 percent.

AHA's Circulation, online, gives guidelines for diet, exercise, smoking and other risk factors.

Dr. Clyde W. Yancy, (medical director of the Baylor Heart and Vascular Institute and president of the heart association) said, "Collectively, when these health factors and healthy behaviors are found in aggregate in one person, the effect on markers of health and healthy outcome are remarkable."

He described how the U.S. death rate from heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular conditions has been reduced by 35 percent! Half of that improvement was due to better preventive measures.

Also, Dr Yancy said, "By packaging these seven components together, it is possible to see a further 20 percent reduction in deaths from heart attack and stroke and also improve cardiovascular health."

That points to an astonishing opportunity--- for everyone to become more aggressively pro-active. Each should begin a regimen of personal measures to prevent disease and health failure in their own bodies.

So many of us are deep in denial about our personal health. We just don't want to think about it.

In a recent survey, 39 percent of Americans claimed they had ideal heart health. Wrong! 54 percent admitted that a health professional pointed out at least one risk factor for heart disease and/or said they needed to make a lifestyle change.

The AHA says a huge problem is that so few people are willing to connect poor (or even dangerous) lifestyle behaviors (like inactivity and poor diet) with cardiovascular disease.

So here are the AHA'S 7 POINTS---"Life's Simple 7."

THE seven main goals (for achieving ideal cardiovascular health) are---

▪ Never smoked or quit more than a year ago.
▪ Body mass index, a measure based on weight and height, less than 25.
▪ Physical exercise -- at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity each week.
▪ At least four key components of a healthy diet, such as fewer calories, more fruits and vegetables, and oily fish, such as salmon, four times a week.
▪ Total cholesterol lower than 200.
▪ Blood pressure below 120/80.
▪ Fasting blood sugar below 100.

By these 7 AHA measures, your cardiovascular health can be graded. Poor, intermediate, or ideal.

"This strategy of seven simple steps makes it a lifestyle-worthy approach," AHA's Dr. Yancy said.

"What's exciting about this is that the American Heart Association is dedicated not only to preventing the ravages of heart disease but also to promoting cardiovascular health in general," said Dr. Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, associate professor of medicine and chair of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and lead author of the scientific statement.

"Very strong scientific evidence shows us that the package of all seven is the fountain of youth for your life," Lloyd-Jones added.
Is any one factor more important than the others?

"Since we're talking about not just heart disease but also stroke, heart failure and peripheral arterial disease, much of what is driving cardiovascular disease today is obesity," Lloyd-Jones stated.

And AHA's Dr. Yancy said, "Your chance for meaningful longevity with good quality of life is substantially increased."

It's up to each of us now, to guard our own health. Increasingly, we can't count on other systems or plans or government help.

The AHA goals and assessment chart are here for you, online--- www.heart.org/MyLifeCheck.

It's up to each of us to improve our health status, and we can track our progress toward better health, for today, for every day, onward.

HEALTH MAINTENANCE IS THE BEST INSURANCE. WE MUST EACH BECOME OUR OWN FIRST LINE OF HEALTH DEFENSE.

Your body is your personal Nation. Protect it, nurture it, respect it.

Isn't your body, really, the home of your life?



(SOURCES: Clyde W. Yancy, M.D., medical director, Baylor Heart and Vascular Institute, Dallas, and president, American Heart Association; Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, M.D., associate professor, medicine, and chair, preventive medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago.)

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