Expert Opinion: An estimated 17.3 million people die of cardiovascular diseases every year. According to WebMD, the leading cause of death in the U.S. is heart disease such as coronary heart disease, heart attack, congestive heart failure, and congenital heart disease. Furthermore, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women over 40, and once a woman reaches menopause, the risk for heart disease increases dramatically. The risk is even higher when combined with other risk factors such as diabetes; smoking; high blood pressure and high cholesterol; obesity; a sedentary lifestyle; hereditary factors; inflammatory diseases; and pregnancy issues such as preeclampsia, high blood pressure, and gestational diabetes.

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to decrease your risk of developing heart disease. First, it’s important to have your blood cholesterol levels checked annually. Good numbers are less than 200, borderline is 200-239, and high levels are 240 or more. If your levels are a little high, know that you’re not alone — more than 30% of Americans have the same problem — but it’s vital not to ignore it. Too much cholesterol can clog your arteries and slow blood flow. This can lead to dangerous blood clots and put you at risk for serious heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Medications can help to lower your cholesterol, but it’s still necessary to adjust your lifestyle to keep cholesterol under control. In fact, you can slow the rate of, stop, or even reverse the narrowing of arteries, even after it has begun, by incorporating careful lifestyle modifications. You can reduce total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar, and reduce body weight by adopting a heart-healthy nutrition strategy.

Tips for Heart Health:
> Increase your intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes.
> Avoid cholesterol intake. Choose healthier fats, such as olive oil, avocados, and nuts.
> Avoid red meat, which is high in fat and cholesterol.
> Avoid/limit simple carbohydrates (white bread, soda, sugar, sweets, alcohol).
> Reduce sodium intake.
> Exercise at least three times a week. Walk as much as possible every day.
> Avoid stress. Do yoga, deep breathing, or meditation to aid in relaxation.

Suggested Reading: The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up by Steven Masley, MD
This step-by-step program will help you tune up your heart, increase your energy, and shrink your waistline. You will decrease arterial plaque, improve circulation, and strengthen your heartbeat with tools such as nutrition, supplements, exercise that strengthens the heart and arteries, and stress management. The plan includes 60 delicious recipes to help you jump-start your heart-healthy diet.

NAILS 10k-a-Day Walking Challenge
Get out of your chair and onto your feet, nail techs! Take NAILS’ 31-day walking challenge and start 2016 on the right foot. Devote the month of January to jump-starting a fitter you and share your results with NAILS readers in our April 2016 issue. Whatever your fitness goals — to lose weight, feel better, and/or improve your overall health — walking is a simple, inexpensive, and effective way to do it.

1. Starting on January 1, 2016, use a pedometer to keep track of your daily steps for one month. You can purchase an inexpensive pedometer or download a free smartphone app such as Pacer.

2. Your goal is 10,000 steps per day. You can break this up into segments — just aim for 10,000 steps total.

3. Email us a summary of your month by February 15, 2016. Tell us about your personal goals and what you achieved during the challenge. We love photos too!

Staring January 1, check NAILS social media pages for weekly encouragement, tips, and fun fitness facts.

Let’s get moving! (That includes us here at NAILS.)

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