Unhealthy lifestyles put young lives at risk
In the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women. Despite the high mortalities associated with cardiovascular disease, many individuals are unaware that a majority of these deaths can be averted through preventative education, lifestyle modifications, smoking cessation, regular physical activity and nutritional changes. Obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol levels, sedentary lifestyles, stress, smoking and non-nutritious diets are modifiable risk factors that increase the likelihood of an adverse cardiovascular or cerebrovascular accident.
The World Health Organization estimates that 80 percent of deaths from cardiovascular disease and strokes worldwide could be prevented through appropriate diets, physical exercise and avoiding the use of tobacco. Some great ways to adopt a healthier lifestyle include getting regular exercise, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing and effectively managing stress, eating a diet that is low in salt and saturated fats, eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean meat and fish, as well as maintaining good hygiene. Give yourself adequate time for rest and sleep. Other lifestyle modifications include controlling your blood pressure and lowering your LDL cholesterol levels if they are high. Depression also increases the risk for heart disease, so seek professional as soon as possible.
As college students, we have easy access to greasy, fried, sugary and overall unhealthy foods. Rigorous coursework, employment and other commitments may make exercising on a regular basis difficult. Working out for 30 minutes at least three days a week can make a difference. Exercise may help you to reduce hypertension, cholesterol levels, risk of developing Type II diabetes mellitus, risk of developing metabolic syndrome, control weight, oxygenate the body, promote better sleep, increase bone strength, improve self-esteem and confidence, improve mood, enhance longevity, improve concentration and ability to think clearer and may improve your overall quality of life.
In recent years, researchers have found that women with an acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) tend to present atypical symptoms and delay in seeking care because they underestimate their risk for a heart attack. It is important to realize that heart attacks and strokes can happen to anyone and at any age. Some symptoms of a heart attack that women (and men) may experience include chest pain, discomfort, pressure or squeezing or a feeling like there’s a ton of weight on you. There's also unusual upper body pain, or discomfort in one or both arms, back, shoulder, neck, jaw or upper part of the stomach. Moreover, there's breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, unusual fatigue, shortness of breath and lightheadedness or sudden dizziness. It is important to call 911 if you or if anyone you know experiences these signs and symptoms.
Being aware of the signs and symptoms, exercising and making necessary lifestyle modifications are some things that we can do now to lower our risk for developing heart disease. After all, if we know how to reduce our risk for heart disease, then what’s stopping us from making our health a priority?
Cilgy Abraham is a Rutgers Nursing School senior majoring in nursing.
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