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Self-Care

To Prevent Heart Disease, Little Efforts That Click Are Better Than the Big Changes That Never Stick


It may be easier than patients think to incorporate activities that help prevent cardiovascular disease into their daily routines, according to results of a new survey called "Baby Steps to HeartHealth."

While numerous at-risk Americans may underestimate the dangers of heart disease the nation's number one killer there are simple and easy ways to reduce their risk, said the survey results. From exercising while doing household chores, to taking a daily low dose aspirin, Americans are more likely to stick with activities that are easy to incorporate into their everyday life.

Some 62 million individuals are estimated to have some form of heart disease. The "Baby Steps to Heart Health," survey was conducted among 1,000 at-risk Americans over age 40 and 300 cardiologists to help raise public awareness of the dangers of heart disease and the preventative benefits of taking small "baby" steps towards better health.

Following the small steps, scores of at-risk Americans may be moving in the right direction to help lower their risk of heart disease, the survey report said. For example, many respondents said they were looking in more natural, everyday places to seek out exercise. When asked to rank their favorite ways of working exercise into their daily routines, survey participants placed the following at the top of the list:

  • Doing household chores (68 percent)
  • Doing yard work (55 percent)
  • Carrying in groceries (55 percent)
  • Playing with the kids or pets (54 percent)
  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator (51 percent)

"For both men and women, these everyday activities can be a great way to begin moving towards a more active lifestyle. But Americans need to maintain that momentum," said MaryAnn McLaughlin, M.D., MPH of the Cardiovascular Institute at The Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York. "It's the small things that pave the way for the major lifestyle changes that can make a huge difference in preventing cardiovascular disease."

Sponsored by the Association of Black Cardiologists and underwritten by a grant from McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals, makers of ST. JOSEPH® 81mg Aspirin, the survey also found that many Americans have trouble making the link between certain health conditions and cardiovascular disease. Eighty-two percent of those surveyed admitted they had at least one risk factor for heart disease, while only 23 percent believed they were personally at risk.

"This survey shows that Americans are aware of the factors that put them at-risk for heart disease, but often do not believe they are personally at risk," said Dr. Malcolm Taylor, president of the Association of Black Cardiologists. "This denial can be potentially life threatening."

Not surprising, when asked how challenging it would be to change or modify a variety of behaviors, the at-risk Americans surveyed ranked the following activities the five most difficult to adhere to:

    1. Losing Weight 36 percent 2. Quitting Smoking 34 percent
    3. Reducing Stress 33 percent
    4. Exercising Regularly 19 percent
    5. Lowering Blood Pressure 16 percent

Eighty three percent of at-risk Americans and 84 percent of cardiologists felt that taking a daily low dose aspirin was the easiest preventative measure to integrate into a patient's lifestyle with nearly all of the cardiologists reporting they recommend it to their at-risk patients, the survey found. Yet, only two out of five at-risk patients surveyed said they are currently on a low dose aspirin regimen.

"When recommended by a doctor, aspirin can play an important role in heart health," said Dr. Taylor. "Americans are often uncomfortable taking certain medications, but many of us grew up taking ST. JOSEPH® Aspirin for the minor aches and pains of childhood and, as a result, we feel very comfortable taking it as adults. Talk to your doctor to see if a daily low dose 81mg aspirin can help you to avoid a heart attack and stroke," he added.

As for gender and heart disease, the cardiologists surveyed believed that female patients were more likely to adhere to their treatment recommendations than their male counterparts, estimating on average that 67 percent of female patients follow their recommendations versus 59 percent of males. However, this survey discovered some differences when it came to the activities cardiologists recommended versus those that patients considered initiating in the coming year.

"This survey shows that, for the most part, both cardiologists and consumers agree when it comes to the activities they should incorporate into their lives," added Dr. McLaughlin, "The challenge will be actually putting these activities into action."

Among the simple steps Americans can follow to reduce their risk are:

  • Twist or Shout but Move, Move, Move: Increase your level of physical activity. Try simple things like walking, cycling, dancing, gardening, playing with children or washing the car.
  • Simply Substitute! Whenever possible substitute high fat/calorie ingredients in your everyday cooking. Use leaner cuts of meat, remove the skin from chicken, use olive oil instead of butter. Also try replacing snacks like cookies and potato chips with more healthful foods you enjoy, like fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Pass These Tests with Flying Colors: Get your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar tested regularly. Understand the numbers; know what they mean to your overall health.

About the Association of Black Cardiologists

The ABC is a not-for-profit volunteer organization of more than 800 African-American cardiologists and medical professionals that is fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME).


© 2004 Health Resources Publishing