I almost let February slip by without an American Hearty Month blog post. This month is special to me as a heart attack and triple coronary bypass survivor. I have been able to refocus my energies to make a healthier life for me over the eight years since these life changing events. 

The American Heart Association has developed the seven step My Life Check program to help us move to a healthier life and reduce the occurrence of cardiac heart disease. The seven steps are: get active, eat better, lose weight, stop smoking, control cholesterol, manage blood pressure and reduce blood sugar. You can explore the interactive website to better understand how to put yourself on the path to better heart health. Today, I am going to talk about the first three steps on that list.

Get Active

Exercise is an eight letter word that brings distain to many. A few months back I posted a comment on a weight loss surgery forum that exercise was not optional but required to be a successful bariatric patient. Some people disagreed. They saw themselves as successes without a single visit to the gym or park.

Success after bariatric surgery is more than lower numbers on the dial of the scale. Regular activity is crucial in achieving success on the other six steps. Exercise does not have to be hours on the treadmill or elliptical. It can be a daily hike around the neighborhood or a weekly bike ride through the park. Find an activity that speaks to you and makes you happy. Now you are getting active.

Eat Better

Cheesy, sugary food looks so appealing. The marketing and advertising of food is big business. This constant marketing makes it difficult to eat healthy.  The key to success in this step is understanding food, its nutritional value and the dietary needs of our body.

Don’t go on a diet. How many diets have you tried? How many have been a success? Once you understand the nutritional content of food, you can make better choices. Learn to read the labels on the back of the box. Look for foods lower in sugar, carbohydrates, and fat while being higher in fiber and protein. Eat natural, unprocessed foods and lots of fruit and vegetables. These are simple rules to remember in the grocery aisles.

Lose Weight

Weight loss is a lifelong challenge for most Americans. Two thirds of us are overweight with one third of those being obese. Obesity is a major contributor to heart and many other chronic diseases. If you want to live a longer life, you need to get a handle on the issues surrounding your weight.

I had a severe weight problem that directly contributed to my heart attack. My cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar were out of control. I came to the realization that weight loss surgery could help me end the vicious cycle of poor health and an increasing number of health issues. I am thankful that I took that path that led me to where I am today.

Bariatric surgery is not for everyone. I urge you to thoroughly investigate your options for a healthier weight. Consult with your primary care physician. A chat with a counselor may help with a mental issue that led to your weight gain. You must first understand what the issues are that caused your weight gain before you can address it.

My Heart Health Story

Recently, I shared my story in a blog post on the Rails to Trails Conservancy web site.  This post spoke to the importance of these trails to my health, particularly my heart health. This non-profit advocates for the development of a national trail network on abandoned railway corridors. Their work networks and enables communities to embrace the development of these trails for the good of their communities.

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