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Diet, exercise keys to heart health

FOTOLIA/TNSCutting down on sugar is a key piece of heart-healthy advice.
FOTOLIA/TNSCutting down on sugar is a key piece of heart-healthy advice. TNS

Every 60 seconds someone dies from a heart attack. And unfortunately, as one gets older, so do the chances of developing some form of heart or cardiovascular problems.

According to aarp.org, about 700,000 Americans have a first heart attack each year with about 500,000 people having repeat heart attacks.

But you don't have to be a part of the statistics.

February is National Heart Month and Christine LeBoeuf, vice president for development with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chapter of the American Heart Association, said there are plenty of ways seniors can avoid the risk of a heart attack.

"We tell people, including seniors, that there are many things they can do to help decrease their risk of heart disease," LeBoeuf said. "Some of these thing include quitting smoking, managing stress, managing blood sugar -- keeping your body in check, so to speak."

LeBoeuf said a yearly trip to the doctor also is recommended.

Visits are important

"We recommend that everyone get an annual check up," she said. "We will be having a Go Red Luncheon for women at the Biloxi Civic Center on Friday starting at 11:30 a.m. Getting an annual check up is something we will be pushing at the luncheon. People need to do this to make sure their cholesterol and blood pressure and other things are where they need to be -- know what your numbers are."

One of the easiest ways to combat heart disease, LeBoeuf said, is by simply watching what you eat.

"The old saying is 'an apple a day keeps the doctor away,' and that's true," she said. "We recommend fruits and vegetables and whole grains and lean meats. You should also watch your sodium and sugar intake."

Another way, she said, to avoid possible heart complications is by staying active.

Important to stay active

"A lot of seniors become less active as they get older, but it doesn't have to be this way," LeBoeuf said. "Exercising for only 10 minutes a day can help decrease your risk for heart problems. And the easiest and cheapest way to do this is by walking. You don't even have to leave your house to do this. And just 10 minutes of exercising really does make a difference."

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