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Dietitian's Dish: National Wear Red Day

By By Katherine Klingle
Jan. 31, 2012 at midnight
Updated Jan. 30, 2012 at 7:31 p.m.

Katherine Klingle

Friday, Feb. 3, is National Wear Red Day.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which is associated with the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources, sponsors this for women, as well as men, to wear their favorite red clothing and unite against heart disease.

Most of us have heard many times about steps to lower our risk for heart disease.

Sometimes, we hear these things so much that we start tuning them out. Maybe we don't follow the guidelines perfectly, but we can recite some of them pretty well; stop smoking, exercise, eat less trans and saturated fats, eat more fatty fish and fiber, watch our weight and lower sugar and salt intake.

We do what we can, but luckily there are so many surgical cures for heart disease in the world of modern medicine, right?

Surgery is not a cure.

The disease will still exist. Perhaps the event Friday reminds us to revisit what we really need to be practicing and what the risks are exactly.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women. We've probably heard this before, too.

But have we heard this part? According to the heart, lung and blood institute, about two-thirds of women who have heart attacks don't fully recover.

And with all the successful angioplasties and cardiac bypass surgeries our talented cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons perform, our arteries can be reopened around our heart to improve blood flow.

But remember that arteries supply blood throughout our bodies, and if we have atherosclerosis around our heart, doesn't it stand to reason that it could be occurring in our other arteries as well?

For example, the same clogging of arteries resulting in a disrupted flow of blood to the brain causes certain forms of stroke. So blood vessel disease doesn't only affect your heart.

And why not try to avoid reaching the point of needing surgical intervention by practicing prevention?

Obviously, there are risk factors that can't be changed. Uncontrollable risk factors include age and family history.

But here is an amazing statistic. We may be able to reduce our risk for heart disease by up to 82 percent by making lifestyle changes.

Nutrition is a critical tool for controlling some risk factors, as our food choices affect blood cholesterol levels, weight, blood sugar and blood pressure. Along with exercise, smoking cessation and other lifestyle changes, we can go a long way in helping ourselves.

There is a wonderful, easy-to-read and complete handbook available to you on the hearttruth.gov website. This Internet entry takes you to the heart, lung and blood institute website.

Enter "women's handbook" in the search window, and you will find a wealth of information in "The Healthy Heart Handbook for Women" right at your fingertips.

Let's do more than just wear something red to fight this disabling disease.

Source: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

Katherine Klingle is a registered and licensed Dietitian. Send questions or comments to dietitians@vicad.com.

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