Diabetes: Control through diet, exercise and/or medication.
Overweight or obese: Change through diet and exercise.
Inactivity: Change by exercising 30 minutes most days of the week.
Knowing your numbers and improving them will go a long way to cut your risk of cardiovascular disease. Adopting healthy habits will add quality years to your life. Isn't it encouraging to know you will live an extra 2.4 years if you start exercising regularly? You will add another 2.5 years to your life by eating small portions of nuts five times a week; 3.7 years if you control your blood pressure; 6.6 years if you are not a diabetic; and 11 years just by maintaining normal body weight.
Other ways to save a life
The American Heart Association recommends you consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day because of the harmful effects of sodium -- elevated blood pressure and increased risk of stroke, heart attacks and kidney disease. About 90 percent of Americans will develop hypertension over their lifetime. Don't add salt to your food, and reduce or eliminate processed food.
Love your children. It is not good for them if they are eating foods with too many added sugars and drinking sugary beverages, particularly in adolescence. Unhealthy cholesterol profiles and low-quality diets potentially lead to heart disease in adulthood. Furthermore, overweight or obese teens with the highest levels of sugar intake had increased signs of insulin resistance, which is a precursor to diabetes. This goes for adults, too.
Knowledge is power
Identify your risks and realize you have the power to control your heart's destiny. Valentine's Day, by the way, is heart-healthy. Sending and receiving a hand-written cards is always good for the mind, body and spirit. Romantic getaways are a fabulous way to manage stress and to lower blood pressure.
Enjoy the chocolate
Because chocolate is derived from plants, it contains many of the benefits found in vegetables known as flavonoids, which protect us from cardiovascular disease. So make your heart content and enjoy some dark chocolate -- it contains a healthy portion of antioxidants (about 8 times the amount found in strawberries) -- and it's yummy.
A love note to my hero
With health and love in my heart, I salute Jack LaLanne, who recently died at age of 96. I grew up being fed by his enthusiastic and vibrant approach to life. He was my mentor -- the single most influential person in my life. In the 1950s, his genuine spirit beckoned me to march myself right to the TV each day, and this call to action taught me that movement meant power, the kind of power that made me physically strong and mentally durable. I did each exercise and soaked up every morsel of fitness information he shared.
Way ahead of his time and considered crazy by some, he preached weight training for women as early as 1936 -- something that took the sophisticated fitness industry decades to accept and finally endorse. He studied Grey's Anatomy, chiropractic health. He ate wheat bread, egg whites, fresh fruits, vegetables and shunned sweets.
A pioneer and self-proclaimed leader of physical culture, LaLanne resorted to physical stunts to gain his audience, but in the end became America's charismatic preacher of health.
Rest in peace, Jack LaLanne. You've certainly earned it.
Cindy Boggs, fitness presenter, author and Activate America director, has been an ACE-certified instructor/trainer since 1989. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to her at YMCA of Kanawha Valley, 100 YMCA Drive, Charleston, WV 25311, or e-mail cindys...@aol.com. Look for Cindy's award-winning fitness advice book, "CindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World," on her website, www.cindysays.com, or contact the YMCA at 304-340-3527.