Striving to Prevent Heart Disease

Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States! Even the most active athletes have to abide by certain rules in order to stave off this dreaded killer. No one is exempt from these rules!

Exercise is Vital for a Strong Heart

Regular exercise is very important for building a strong heart and to help keep it strong. The best kinds of exercises for developing and maintaining good cardiovascular health are those that provide an aerobic workout. Aerobic workouts include activities that can be sustained for long periods of time without experiencing too much fatigue, as a result of the body’s ability to deliver and utilize oxygen efficiently. Performing aerobic exercise with enough intensity and for extended periods of time will raise the heart rate, allowing your heart muscle to be worked sufficiently to increase your cardiovascular health and reduce your risk of heart disease.

Examples of aerobic exercises include walking, jogging, bicycling, hiking, cross-country skiing, and swimming. Ideally, a minimum of 30 minutes of some sort of aerobic activity daily should be incorporated into your lifestyle. But, any exercise is better than no exercise, at all. (Seek the advice of your physician before beginning any exercise program.)

Exercise is Not Enough – Watch What You Eat

When it comes to keeping your heart healthy, regular exercise is extremely important. However, it simply is not enough! The kinds of food that you consume daily play a vital role in heart health, as well.

What kinds of foods should you eat in your efforts to lower your risk of heart disease? And, what kinds of foods should you avoid?

One healthy choice to consider is eating fish a few times per week, instead of eating lots of meats that are high in saturated fat. The best fish to eat are those which are highest in essential omega-3 fats, such as salmon and tuna. Fish is also a good source of protein.

It is important to limit your intake of foods that are high in saturated fat, such as greasy hamburgers, fatty cheeses, and ice cream. No more than 10 percent of your daily calories should come from saturated fats, according to the American Heart Association. Too many saturated fats in your diet can lead to clogged arteries and high cholesterol levels. Some fat in your diet is necessary, however.

Try to make the bigger percentage of your daily fat intake monounsaturated fats, such as canola oil or olive oil, which seem to be more heart-healthy than saturated and polyunsaturated fats. And, limit your total daily fat intake to a maximum of 30 percent of your daily calorie intake.

Other dietary measures to take towards preventing heart disease include eating sufficient amounts of foods rich in soluble fiber, such as oats, beans, and split peas. According to diet expert, Nancy Clark, soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol levels. Also, it’s a good idea to substitute low-fat or skim milk for whole milk and cream. The main thing to remember is that balance in your diet is the key to optimal health!

Of course, genetics play a big role in one’s health. Some people are genetically predisposed to be at high risk of developing heart disease. For these people, it’s very important to monitor cholesterol levels. And, if you’re healthy and over 20, it’s a good idea to have your cholesterol levels checked at least once every five years.

Your HDL (good cholesterol) level should be at least 25 percent of your total cholesterol level, according to Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook. “Because exercise tends to boost HDL, active people often have a high percent of this good cholesterol. Their total cholesterol may be higher than that of a sedentary person. But as long as 25 percent of it is HDL, these individuals have a lower risk of heart problems. The higher the HDL percent, the better.”

Keep exercising regularly! Eat a healthy, balanced diet! And, live long and prosper!

Exercise Myths and Truths

Just like Old Wives’ Tales that have been passed down through the generations, so have there been myths about exercise that have been handed down through the years. As knowledge increases, truths about exercise are revealed which put those myths to rest. However, some of us are still uncertain about what is myth and what is fact.

Over the years, the results of many studies have disproved some common exercise misconceptions. Below are among the myths that have been proven to be incorrect:

After being avid about working out, if I should ever stop exercising, my muscle will turn to fat. This is impossible! Muscle tissue and fat tissue are two entirely different types of tissue! The molecular structure of one is completely unlike the molecular structure of the other. So, if you stop exercising, your muscle will NOT turn into fat. Rather, it will simply atrophy and become smaller in size. However, if you’re burning fewer calories than you consume, there IS a chance that your body will store more fat, and you could gain weight.

It’s possible to “spot-reduce” body fat. You can choose just one area, such as the stomach or thighs, and do exercises that will reduce the fat in that particular area. This is a big misconception. You CANNOT lose fat in just one specific part of your body. Fat is lost only by burning more calories than you consume, and it is lost equally in all areas of your body.

Aerobic exercises are generally the best types of exercises for burning fat. You CAN do area-specific exercises to tone and strengthen the muscles in a certain area, however. These types of exercises help to improve overall fitness. But, they don’t have a direct impact on stored body fat.

Strength training will make a woman too muscular and appear less feminine and more masculine. First of all, bodybuilders, as a rule, are genetically predisposed for that sport. The female body typically does not produce enough testosterone necessary to build big, bulky muscles. Strength training will tone and strengthen the muscles in a woman’s body.

In fact, as a woman ages, she loses muscle mass and bone density. Strength training will increase her bone density and muscle mass, and will help lower her chances of developing osteoporosis. However, she will probably never look like a female bodybuilder. According to a study conducted by Miriam Nelson of the Jean Mayer U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, to be a female bodybuilder, a woman would have to endure extreme training habits that most strength-training programs do not endorse.

The only way to burn calories is through cardiovascular exercise. While it is true that cardiovascular workouts (i.e. aerobic dance or jogging) provide the most efficient ways to burn calories, a person burns calories merely by existing. Also, the more muscle mass you have, the more calories your body will burn naturally. This is because muscle is an active tissue. However, just because you develop more muscle mass doesn’t mean that you should neglect your cardiovascular training. For best results, strive for a balanced workout regimen.

High-impact aerobics are the only way to lose the fat off my butt and thighs. Actually, the body burns fat more efficiently when you engage in low- to moderate-intensity activities over a longer period of time. High-impact aerobic workouts burn stored carbohydrate calories (muscle glycogen and blood glucose) rather than metabolizing fat for energy.

The body chooses to burn fat when the body is at rest. Although, the fat is burned at a not-so-high rate. Low- to moderate-intensity workouts (combined with resistance training which targets your butt and thighs, specifically) tend to be safer and an excellent method of achieving your goals, according to experts.

There are other exercise misconceptions floating around the gym and other places. When in doubt about what exercises would benefit you best and help you to achieve your fitness goals, ask a fitness professional. And, before beginning any exercise or diet program, be sure to consult your physician. What is safe for one individual may not be safe for another. (When I speak about what exercises and/or diets work best, I am speaking about what works best for the general population. There are always exceptions to the rule. I apologize for not pointing this out in my last article.)

Good luck on your weight-loss endeavors!