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One big reason why you should ‘heart’ February

The American Heart Association designates every February as “American Heart Month.”

The American Heart Association designates every February as “American Heart Month.”

Of course, in the ongoing battle against heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure, every month is vital.

But despite all the ad campaigns and doctors’ warnings, the importance of a healthy lifestyle, complete with diet and exercise, fails to resonate with an increasingly lax public.

According to studies by the AHA, more than 65 percent of Americans are obese and heart disease remains the top killer among women over the age of 20, claiming around 450,000 lives a year.

“We live in a sedentary society,” said Dr. Charles Tifft, a Boston-area cardiologist. “We’re blessed with all these health clubs in Boston, but there’s still so many people that don’t get any exercise. We still have one in three Americans dying of cardiovascular disease.”

Yet with just 30 minutes a day, for five days a week, of cardiovascular exercise — whether it’s jogging on a treadmill, riding an elliptical or even strength-training — the risks of heart disease can be reduced significantly by lowering blood pressure and increasing the HDL, or “good” cholesterol in the system. The AHA reports that with regular exercise, the risk of heart disease in women decreases 40 percent.

“If you can incorporate exercise in a positive way into your lifestyle, and can find something [you] enjoy, regular exercise will probably prolong life,” Tifft said.

 
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