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By Reema AminContact Reporter
ramin@dailypress.com

The Peninsula Metropolitan YMCA announced Thursday night that it would rename its Warwick Boulevard location in Newport News after Tom and Ann Hunnicutt, whose family has worked with the organization for the past 70 years.

The sign has already been changed to read Tom and Ann Hunnicutt Family YMCA, said Melanie Erickson, spokeswoman for the Peninsula Metropolitan YMCA.

The announcement was a surprise and was made after Tom Hunnicutt III accepted the Social Responsibility award during the YMCA’s annual banquet dinner at the Marriott at City Center.

“There wasn’t a plan to rename it; it’s really to honor the Hunnicutt family,” Erickson said. “We wanted (Tom) to be aware of what his legacy is.”

Hunnicutt, who is the CEO of Pembroke Stone Mart in Hampton, accepted the award after a video that highlighted his work with the YMCA since 1965. He was elected in 1965 to the board of directors of then-Newport News YMCA, which later became the Peninsula Metropolitan YMCA. He served as president in 1970, following his father, Dr. T. N. Hunnicutt Jr., who had the same position in 1946.

“Over 70 years between he and his father, serving our YMCA,” said Danny Carroll, the CEO of the Peninsula Metropolitan YMCA.

In 1977, the Hunnicutt family donated the track at the Newport News location on Warwick Boulevard as part of a $407,000 renovation of the facility, which brought the Adult Fitness Center and three more racquetball courts.

After the Hampton branch was opened, Hunnicutt became the first chairman of its board. In 1983, he was elected as the first president of the Peninsula Metropolitan YMCA board, Erickson said.
In 1995, after his one-year tenure as the Peninsula president, Hunnicutt was named as the chairman of a $2.4 million fundraising campaign to build an indoor pool at the Hampton branch.

Both Tom and Ann Hunnicutt said Tuesday that they were “completely surprised” by the announcement. “To be a part of the YMCA organization for years and watching it grow under Danny’s leadership — that is all I need, and this was the topping on the cake,” Tom Hunnicutt said after the banquet.

Hunnicutt has been honored by several other organizations. He received the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Citizen Award in 1998, the Distinguished Citizen Award from the city of Hampton in 1994, Peninsula Sales & Marketing Outstanding Business Leader in 1993 and the “Four Star Award” from the Military Affairs Council of the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce in 1992.

Amin can be reached by phone at 757-247-4890.
Copyright © 2017, Daily Press

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By Dave Ramont
The first YMCA in America opened in Boston in 1851—seven years after the organization’s founding in London—with one of their original tenets being physical fitness. In 1891, Canadian James Naismith went to Springfield, Mass., to become the physical education teacher at the YMCA International Training School there. That winter, his boss—Dr. Luther Gulick—tasked him with creating an indoor game to provide an athletic distraction for his rowdy class that was confined indoors due to the harsh winter. Gulick wanted to keep his track athletes in shape, and instructed Naismith to “make it fair for all players and not too rough.”

Naismith considered the popular games of the time—soccer, football, rugby, lacrosse, hockey and baseball. He decided a big, soft ball was safest, and that a focus on passing the ball would minimize physical contact. He also thought that making the goals un-guardable would reduce body contact. So he hung a peach basket at each end of the gym, about 10 feet off the floor. He christened his game “Basket Ball,” posted his original 13 basic rules on a bulletin board, and in December 1891 the first game was played, with a nine-versus-nine player format.

The first game featured a lot of punching, tackling and kicking—resulting in black eyes, a separated shoulder and one player being knocked unconscious. Naismith tweaked some of the rules—particularly that there could now be no running with the ball—which dramatically decreased the tackling and punching, making the sport much safer. Dribbling the ball wasn’t introduced until later.

By 1892 the game had become very popular on campus, and other Ys started to incorporate it, with the game being introduced internationally by the YMCA movement in 1893. The Trenton, N.J., YMCA team claimed to be National Champs in 1896 after beating other Y and college teams. That same year the Trenton team charged admission for a game at a Masonic Temple, keeping the proceeds and giving birth to professional basketball. Naismith took a job at the University of Kansas in 1898, starting a basketball program there. By the turn of the century, there were enough college teams in the East that the first official intercollegiate games could be played. Basketball was a demonstration sport at the 1904 Summer Olympics, and was officially introduced into the Olympic program at the 1936 Berlin games, with a 74-year old Naismith in attendance.

Kevin Washington, president and CEO of YMCA of the USA, believes that Dr. Naismith would be amazed at what his simple game has become 125 years later. “Thanks to his imagination, what started with two peach baskets has evolved into one of the most popular games in the world. The Y is proud to be part of basketball’s living legacy,” Washington said.

There are 2,700 YMCAs across the United States, with most locations still offering basketball and other sports programs in their gymnasiums.

The Ultimate Insider’s Guide

There’s nothing quite like a milestone birthday to get us reflecting on where we’ve been and where we’d like to go in the future.

Life might look a bit different than it did just a few years ago when you were finishing your education and beginning your career. Perhaps now you own a house and have started accumulating valuable assets. Your household may include pets and children or college-age students. You might also be setting philanthropic goals for yourself, so it’s time to create a plan that protects the important people and priorities in your life.

Here are the first steps to take:

  1. Create a will. If you haven’t yet created a will, the time to do so is right now. This is one of the most important documents you can have to protect your loved ones and their financial future. Writing a will lets you control your legacy and how your assets will be distributed after your lifetime, including any charitable gifts you wish to make to The Peninsula Metropolitan YMCA. If you pass away without a will, these important decisions are made by the state where you lived.

    Insider Tip: If you have already created a will, this is a good time to review it to make sure it still meets your needs. If you’ve experienced any of the following events, you might need to update your will:

    • A new marriage or divorce, including your own or your children’s
    • The birth of a child or grandchild
    • The death of a family member
    • A move to another state
    • A new or growing relationship with a charitable cause
  2. Assign roles. Part of creating your will is naming a guardian for any minor children in your care, as well as your executor, who oversees how your assets are distributed after your lifetime. Talk to the people you would like to assume these important roles to make sure they are willing to accept the responsibilities. Part of your discussion should include your values and philanthropic vision so that they know what is important to you.

    Insider Tip: Your executor holds an important job, and if you don’t have a relative or close friend you trust to handle the duties, you can name a bank or trust company as your executor for a fee. Many banks have experience administering estates, a common practice for larger estates.

    You should also consider who you will name as agents in your powers of attorney for health care and financial matters. These should be people you trust to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so.

  3. Review your beneficiary designations. Make sure you have named beneficiaries of your life insurance policy and retirement and bank accounts, and review them after any major life changes, such as marriages, divorces, births and deaths. For example, if you fail to remove a former spouse as a beneficiary before you pass away, he or she could receive that asset, even if you are remarried to someone else.

    Insider Tip: Want to disinherit the government? Name The Peninsula Metropolitan YMCA as the beneficiary of your retirement account. If you leave these assets to your loved ones, the distributions are subject to income taxes based on your heirs’ ordinary income tax rate. But thanks to our tax-exempt status, we can bypass federal taxes and put 100 percent of your gift directly toward our mission.

  4. Organize your paperwork. Once you have created and updated the various documents detailed above, don’t put them in a box under your bed. Store them in a secure place in your home, such as a fire- and waterproof safe. Give a copy of your will to your executor, and make sure the people you’ve appointed as your powers of attorney for health care and financial matters have original copies of those documents.

    Insider Tip: Consider opening a safe-deposit box to store other items that would cause panic if lost, such as:

    • Insurance policies
    • Birth, marriage and death certificates
    • Adoption papers and divorce decrees
    • Deeds, titles, mortgage papers and lease contracts
    • Military records and citizenship papers
    • Stock and bond certificates

    Do not keep the original copy of your will or trust, power of attorney documents or medical care directives in your safe-deposit box.

Hit the Easy Button

It’s hard enough blowing out another candle on your birthday cake. Let us lend you a hand with some of the responsibilities that come with turning a year older. We can help you make sure you’re on the right path to creating a secure plan that protects your family’s future with our FREE Personal Estate Planning Kit:

Download your kit today

Or contact Danny Carroll at dcarroll@peninsulaymca.org or 757.223.7925 ext 203 to learn more.

The YMCA employs experts in the field of health & fitness. All of our locations have certified personal trainers, group exercise, and wellness center instructors, who are available to help guide, coach, support and inspire your journey to a healthy lifestyle. We’ve selected these articles and wellness tips for your healthy heart and a happier you. Enjoy.

February is Heart Health Month

Mediterranean Diet is Good for Heart Health

6 Symptoms of a Women’s Heart Attack

The Making of a Happy, Healthy Heart

Strategies to Prevent Heart Disease

Nutrition and Exercise – A Balance for a Healthy Heart

Heart Healthy Suggestions for You 

The heart-healthy Mediterranean diet is a healthy eating plan based on typical foods and recipes of Mediterranean-style cooking. Here’s how to adopt the Mediterranean diet.

By Mayo Clinic Staff: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801

If you’re looking for a heart-healthy eating plan, the Mediterranean diet might be right for you.

The Mediterranean diet incorporates the basics of healthy eating — plus a splash of flavorful olive oil and perhaps a glass of red wine — among other components characterizing the traditional cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

Most healthy diets include fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains, and limit unhealthy fats. While these parts of a healthy diet are tried-and-true, subtle variations or differences in proportions of certain foods may make a difference in your risk of heart disease.

Benefits of the Mediterranean diet

Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease. The diet has been associated with a lower level of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — the “bad” cholesterol that’s more likely to build up deposits in your arteries.

In fact, a meta-analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality as well as overall mortality.

The Mediterranean diet is also associated with a reduced incidence of cancer, and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Women who eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts may have a reduced risk of breast cancer.

For these reasons, most if not all major scientific organizations encourage healthy adults to adapt a style of eating like that of the Mediterranean diet for prevention of major chronic diseases.

Key components of the Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:

  • Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
  • Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
  • Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
  • Enjoying meals with family and friends
  • Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)
  • Getting plenty of exercise
  • The Mediterranean diet
  • Fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains

mediteranian diet pyramid

The Mediterranean diet traditionally includes fruits, vegetables, pasta and rice. For example, residents of Greece eat very little red meat and average nine servings a day of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.

Grains in the Mediterranean region are typically whole grain and usually contain very few unhealthy trans fats, and bread is an important part of the diet there. However, throughout the Mediterranean region, bread is eaten plain or dipped in olive oil — not eaten with butter or margarines, which contain saturated or trans fats.

Nuts are another part of a healthy Mediterranean diet. Nuts are high in fat (approximately 80 percent of their calories come from fat), but most of the fat is not saturated. Because nuts are high in calories, they should not be eaten in large amounts — generally no more than a handful a day. Avoid candied or honey-roasted and heavily salted nuts.

Healthy fats

The focus of the Mediterranean diet isn’t on limiting total fat consumption, but rather to make wise choices about the types of fat you eat. The Mediterranean diet discourages saturated fats and hydrogenated oils (trans fats), both of which contribute to heart disease.

The Mediterranean diet features olive oil as the primary source of fat. Olive oil provides monounsaturated fat — a type of fat that can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels when used in place of saturated or trans fats.

“Extra-virgin” and “virgin” olive oils — the least processed forms — also contain the highest levels of the protective plant compounds that provide antioxidant effects.

Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, such as canola oil and some nuts, contain the beneficial linolenic acid (a type of omega-3 fatty acid). Omega-3 fatty acids lower triglycerides, decrease blood clotting, are associated with decreased sudden heart attack, improve the health of your blood vessels, and help moderate blood pressure.

Fatty fish — such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon — are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish is eaten on a regular basis in the Mediterranean diet.

Wine

The health effects of alcohol have been debated for many years, and some doctors are reluctant to encourage alcohol consumption because of the health consequences of excessive drinking.

However, alcohol — in moderation — has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease in some research studies.

The Mediterranean diet typically includes a moderate amount of wine. This means no more than 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of wine daily for women (or men over age 65), and no more than 10 ounces (296 milliliters) of wine daily for men under age 65.

If you’re unable to limit your alcohol intake to the amounts defined above, if you have a personal or family history of alcohol abuse, or if you have heart or liver disease, refrain from drinking wine or any other alcohol.

Putting it all together

The Mediterranean diet is a delicious and healthy way to eat. Many people who switch to this style of eating say they’ll never eat any other way. Here are some specific steps to get you started:

Eat your veggies and fruits — and switch to whole grains. An abundance and variety of plant foods should make up the majority of your meals. Strive for seven to 10 servings a day of veggies and fruits. Switch to whole-grain bread and cereal, and begin to eat more whole-gain rice and pasta products.

Go nuts. Keep almonds, cashews, pistachios and walnuts on hand for a quick snack. Choose natural peanut butter, rather than the kind with hydrogenated fat added. Try tahini (blended sesame seeds) as a dip or spread for bread.

Pass on the butter. Try olive or canola oil as a healthy replacement for butter or margarine. Use it in cooking. Dip bread in flavored olive oil or lightly spread it on whole-grain bread for a tasty alternative to butter. Or try tahini as a dip or spread.

Spice it up. Herbs and spices make food tasty and are also rich in health-promoting substances. Season your meals with herbs and spices rather than salt.

Go fish. Eat fish once or twice a week. Fresh or water-packed tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel and herring are healthy choices. Grilled fish tastes good and requires little cleanup. Avoid fried fish, unless it’s sauteed in a small amount of canola oil.

Rein in the red meat. Substitute fish and poultry for red meat. When eaten, make sure it’s lean and keep portions small (about the size of a deck of cards). Also avoid sausage, bacon and other high-fat meats.

Choose low-fat dairy. Limit higher fat dairy products such as whole or 2 percent milk, cheese and ice cream. Switch to skim milk, fat-free yogurt and low-fat cheese.

Raise a glass to healthy eating. If it’s OK with your doctor, have a glass of wine at dinner. If you don’t drink alcohol, you don’t need to start. Drinking purple grape juice may be an alternative to wine.

 

The Y wants you to be at your best health at every age. Here are some recommendations for top programs and foods that support your heart health.

TOP CARDIO SPORTS

  • Basketball
  • Dodge Ball
  • Flag Football
  • Football
  • Handball
  • Kickball
  • Lacrosse
  • Pickle Ball
  • Racquetball
  • Rugby
  • Soccer
  • Tennis
  • Ultimate Frisbee
  • Volleyball
  • Water Polo

TOP CARDIO EXERCISES

  • Aerobic Classes
  • Bicycling
  • Cross-Country
  • Skiing
  • Dancing
  • Hiking
  • In-Line Skating (Roller Blading)
  • Jump Rope
  • Kayaking
  • Mountain Biking
  • Paddle Boarding
  • Running
  • Rowing
  • Surfing
  • Stair Climbing
  • Swimming
  • Walking

HEART HEALTHY FOODS

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Garlic
  • Herbs (fresh)
  • Kale
  • Non-Processed Foods
  • Olive Oil
  • Skim Milk
  • Spices
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Organic Meats
  • Yogurt
  • Zucchini

6 SYMPTOMS OF WOMEN’S HEART ATTACKS

By Lisa Fields
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD
http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/features/womens-heart-attack-symptoms

When a heart attack strikes, it doesn’t always feel the same in women as it does in men.

Women don’t always get the same classic heart attack symptoms as men, such as crushing chest pain that radiates down one arm. Those heart attack symptoms can certainly happen to women, but many experience vague or even “silent” symptoms that they may miss.

These six heart attack symptoms are common in women:

  1. Chest pain or discomfort. Chest pain is the most common heart attack symptom, but some women may experience it differently than men. It may feel like a squeezing or fullness, and the pain can be anywhere in the chest, not just on the left side. It’s usually “truly uncomfortable” during a heart attack, says cardiologist Rita Redberg, MD, director of Women’s Cardiovascular Services at the University of California, San Francisco. “It feels like a vise being tightened.”
  2. Pain in your arm(s), back, neck, or jaw. This type of pain is more common in women than in men. It may confuse women who expect their pain to be focused on their chest and left arm, not their back or jaw. The pain can be gradual or sudden, and it may wax and wane before becoming intense. If you’re asleep, it may wake you up. You should report any “not typical or unexplained” symptoms in any part of your body above your waist to your doctor or other health care provider, says cardiologist C. Noel Bairey Merz, MD, director of the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
  3. Stomach pain. Sometimes people mistake stomach pain that signals a heart attack with heartburn, the flu, or a stomach ulcer. Other times, women experience severe abdominal pressure that feels like an elephant sitting on your stomach, says cardiologist Nieca Goldberg, MD, medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York.
  4. Shortness of breath, nausea, or lightheadedness. If you’re having trouble breathing for no apparent reason, you could be having a heart attack, especially if you’re also having one or more other symptoms. “It can feel like you have run a marathon, but you didn’t make a move,” Goldberg says.
  5. Sweating. Breaking out in a nervous, cold sweat is common among women who are having a heart attack. It will feel more like stress-related sweating than perspiration from exercising or spending time outside in the heat. “Get it checked out” if you don’t typically sweat like that and there is no other reason for it, such as heat or hot flashes, Bairey Merz says.
  6. Fatigue. Some women who have heart attacks feel extremely tired, even if they’ve been sitting still for a while or haven’t moved much. “Patients often complain of a tiredness in the chest,” Goldberg says. “They say that they can’t do simple activities, like walk to the bathroom.”

Not everyone gets all of those symptoms. If you have chest discomfort, especially if you also have one or more of the other signs, call 911 immediately.

Read the original article: http://www.clarku.edu/offices/health/nutrition.cfm

How does what I eat affect my heart?
The food you eat can affect the way blood flows through your heart and arteries. A diet high in fat and cholesterol can gradually cause a buildup (called “plaque”) in your arteries. That buildup slows down the blood flow and blocks small arteries. If the blockage happens in an artery that carries blood to the heart muscle, the heart muscle can die. That’s a heart attack. If the blockage happens in an artery that carries blood to the brain, part of the brain can die. That’s a stroke (also called a brain attack). The right diet helps keep your arteries clear and reduces the risk of heart problems and stroke. Keeping your heart healthy by watching what you eat isn’t as hard as it sounds!

Tips for a heart-healthy diet

  • Eat less fat (especially avoid butter, coconut and palm oil, saturated or hydrogenated vegetable fats such as Crisco, animal fats in meats, fats in dairy products)
  • Use nonstick vegetable oil cooking sprays instead of oils. Olive oil is also good
  • Buy lean cuts of meat; reduce portion size to 3 ounces (the size of a pack of cards)
  • Eat more fish, skinless chicken and turkey
  • Try low-fat snacks that have been baked instead of fried, such as pretzels
  • Drink skim milk, and buy low-fat cheese, yogurt and margarine
  • Buy sherbet, ice milk or frozen low-fat yogurt instead of ice cream
  • Have a bagel or English muffin instead of a donut or pastry
  • Eat no more than 4 egg yolks a week (use egg whites or egg substitutes)
  • Bake, broil, steam or grill foods instead of frying them
  • Eat fewer “fast foods” (burgers, fried foods), which are high in fat
  • Eat more fruits, vegetables and carbohydrates (rice, pasta, breads, grains)
  • Drink low-calorie beverages, such as unsweetened tea or diet soda pop

How much should I weigh?
Talk to your healthcare provider about determining your ideal weight, because every person is different. If you’re overweight, the extra pounds put extra stress on your heart. Losing weight will help your heart stay healthy. If you need to lose weight, remember that losing just 10% of your body weight will reduce your risks for diabetes and heart disease.

Why is exercise good for my heart?
Exercise makes your heart stronger, helping it pump more blood with each heartbeat. The blood then delivers more oxygen to your body, which helps it function more efficiently. Exercise can also lower blood pressure, reduce your risk of heart disease and reduce levels of LDL (“bad” cholesterol), which clogs the arteries and can cause a heart attack. At the same time, exercise can raise levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol), which helps protect against heart disease.

Combined with a healthy diet, exercise can speed up weight loss. Exercise is also the best way to maintain weight loss. Regular exercise also helps you burn calories faster, even when you’re sitting still.

What’s the best type of exercise for my heart?
Aerobic exercise causes you to breathe more deeply and makes your heart work harder to pump blood. Aerobic exercise also raises your heart rate (which also burns calories). Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, jogging, running, swimming and bicycling. How much exercise do I need?
In general, if you haven’t been exercising, try to work up to 30 minutes, 4 to 6 times a week. Your doctor may make a different recommendation based on your health. If you can’t carry on a conversation while you exercise, you may be overdoing it. It is best to alternate exercise days with rest days to prevent injuries.

How will I fit exercise into my busy schedule?
There are lots of ways to raise your heart rate during your regular day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk during a coffee break or lunch. Walk to work, or park at the end of the parking lot so you have to walk farther. Walk more briskly. Do housework at a quicker pace and more often (for example, vacuuming every day). Rake leaves, push the lawn mower or do other yard work.

###

The YMCA is here to help and is the perfect place to begin, re-commit, or continue your exercise routine to keep your heart happy and healthy. We’re friendly, smart, caring, and excited to work with you on your health goals. Our certified personal trainers, group exercise instructors, and wellness center instructors design, lead, and suggest classes that best suit your wellness needs. And all YMCA staffs are CPR certified.

To keep your heart strong, you’ll want to include group exercise classes that get your heart pumping. We have a long list of choice classes like Tabata, Group Cycling, RIPPED, Zumba, Turbo Kick, Water Fitness and many more on land or in the water* (*at selected locations) so you can find the classes that suit you best — high-intensity & high impact to low-intensity & low impact — we have classes for all fitness levels. And our expert wellness center instructors and personal trainers can design a personalized cardio and/or strength training program just for you.

The YMCA suggests you check with your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough to begin your exercise plan.

STRATEGIES TO PREVENT HEART DISEASE
FOR A HAPPY HEALTHY HEART

6 Healthy Tips for Your Heart Health

You can prevent heart disease by following a heart-healthy lifestyle. Here are strategies to help you protect your heart.

By Mayo Clinic Staff – Downloaded December 16, 2014 from mayoclinic.com. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/heart-disease-prevention/art-20046502

Heart disease may be a leading cause of death, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept it as your fate. Although you lack the power to change some risk factors — such as family history, gender, or age — there are some key heart disease prevention steps you can take.

You can avoid heart problems in the future by adopting a healthy lifestyle today. Here are six heart disease prevention tips to get you started.

1. Don’t Smoke or Use Tobacco

Smoking or using tobacco of any kind is one of the most significant risk factors for developing heart disease. Chemicals in tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels, leading to narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis). Atherosclerosis can ultimately lead to a heart attack.

Carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke replaces some of the oxygen in your blood. This increases your blood pressure and heart rate by forcing your heart to work harder to supply enough oxygen. Women who smoke and take birth control pills are at greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke than are those who don’t do either because both smoking and taking birth control pills increase the risk of blood clots.

When it comes to heart disease prevention, no amount of smoking is safe. But, the more you smoke, the greater your risk. Smokeless tobacco and low-tar and low-nicotine cigarettes also are risky, as is exposure to secondhand smoke. Even so-called “social smoking” — smoking only while at a bar or restaurant with friends — is dangerous and increases the risk of heart disease.

The good news, though, is that when you quit smoking, your risk of heart disease drops almost to that of a nonsmoker in about five years. And no matter how long or how much you smoked, you’ll start reaping rewards as soon as you quit.

2. Exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week

Getting some regular, daily exercise can reduce your risk of fatal heart disease. And when you combine physical activity with other lifestyle measures, such as maintaining a healthy weight, the payoff is even greater.Physical activity helps you control your weight and can reduce your chances of developing other conditions that may put a strain on your heart, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Try getting at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week. However, even shorter amounts of exercise offer heart benefits, so if you can’t meet those guidelines, don’t give up. You can even get the same health benefits if you break up your workout time into three 10-minute sessions most days of the week.

And remember that activities, such as gardening, housekeeping, taking the stairs and walking the dog all count toward your total. You don’t have to exercise strenuously to achieve benefits, but you can see bigger benefits by increasing the intensity, duration and frequency of your workouts.

3. Eat a heart-healthy diet

Eating a healthy diet can reduce your risk of heart disease. Two examples of heart-healthy food plans include the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan and the Mediterranean diet.A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help protect your heart. Beans, other low-fat sources of protein and certain types of fish also can reduce your risk of heart diseaseLimiting certain fats you eat also is important. Of the types of fat — saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and trans fat — saturated fat and trans fat are the ones to try to limit or avoid. Try to keep saturated fat to no more than 10 percent of your daily calories. And, try to keep trans-fat out of your diet altogether.

Major sources of saturated fat include:

Red meat
Dairy products
Coconut and palm oils

Sources of trans-fat include:

Deep-fried fast foods
Bakery products
Packaged snack foods
Margarines
Crackers

If the nutrition label has the term “partially hydrogenated,” it means that product contains trans-fat.

Heart-healthy eating isn’t all about cutting back, though. Healthy fats from plant-based sources, such as avocado, nuts, olives and olive oil, help your heart by lowering the bad type of cholesterol.

Most people need to add more fruits and vegetables to their diet — with a goal of five to 10 servings a day. Eating that many fruits and vegetables can not only help prevent heart disease but also may help prevent cancer and improve diabetes.

Eating several servings a week of certain fish, such as salmon and mackerel, may decrease your risk of heart attack.

Following a heart-healthy diet also means keeping an eye on how much alcohol you drink. If you choose to drink alcohol, it’s better for your heart to do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger. At that moderate level, alcohol can have a protective effect on your heart. More than that becomes a health hazard.

4. Maintain a healthy weight

Being overweight, especially if you carry excess weight around your middle, ups your risk of heart disease. Excess weight can lead to conditions that increase your chances of heart disease — high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.One way to see if your weight is healthy is to calculate your body mass index (BMI), which considers your height and weight in determining whether you have a healthy or unhealthy percentage of body fat. BMI numbers 25 and higher are associated with higher blood fats, higher blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

The BMI is a good, but imperfect guide. Muscle weighs more than fat, for instance, and women and men who are very muscular and physically fit can have high BMIs without added health risks. Because of that, waist circumference also is a useful tool to measure how much abdominal fat you have:

Men are considered overweight if their waist measurement is greater than 40 inches (101.6 centimeters, or cm).

Women are overweight if their waist measurement is greater than 35 inches (88.9 cm).

Even a small weight loss can be beneficial. Reducing your weight by just 5 to 10 percent can help decrease your blood pressure, lower your blood cholesterol level, and reduce your risk of diabetes.

5. Get enough quality sleep

Sleep deprivation can do more than leave you yawning throughout the day; it can harm your health. People who don’t get enough sleep have a higher risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes and depression.Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night. If you wake up without your alarm clock and you feel refreshed, you’re getting enough sleep. But, if you’re constantly reaching for the snooze button and it’s a struggle to get out of bed, you need more sleep each night.Make sleep a priority in your life. Set a sleep schedule and stick to it by going to bed and waking up at the same times each day. Keep your bedroom dark and quiet, so it’s easier to sleep.

If you feel like you’ve been getting enough sleep, but you’re still tired throughout the day, ask your doctor if you need to be evaluated for sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea blocks the airflow through your windpipe and causes you to stop breathing temporarily. Signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring loudly; gasping for air during sleep; waking up several times during the night; waking up with a headache, sore throat or dry mouth; and memory or learning problems.

Treatments for obstructive sleep apnea include losing weight or using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device that keeps your airway open while you sleep. CPAP treatment appears to lower the risk of heart disease from sleep apnea.

6. Get regular health screenings

High blood pressure and high cholesterol can damage your heart and blood vessels. But without testing for them, you probably won’t know whether you have these conditions. Regular screening can tell you what your numbers are and whether you need to take action.

Blood pressure. Regular blood pressure screenings usually start in childhood. Adults should have their blood pressure checked at least every two years. You may need more-frequent checks if your numbers aren’t ideal or if you have other risk factors for heart disease. Optimal blood pressure is less than 120/80 millimeters of mercury.

Cholesterol levels. Adults should have their cholesterol measured at least once every five years starting at age 20 if they have risk factors for heart disease, such as obesity or high blood pressure. If you’re healthy, you can start having your cholesterol screened at age 35 for men and 45 for women. Some children may need their blood cholesterol tested if they have a strong family history of heart disease.

Diabetes screening. Since diabetes is a risk factor for developing heart disease, you may want to consider being screened for diabetes. Talk to your doctor about when you should have a fasting blood sugar test to check for diabetes. Depending on your risk factors, such as being overweight or having a family history of diabetes, your doctor may recommend early screening for diabetes. If your weight is normal and you don’t have other risk factors for type 2 diabetes, the American Diabetes Association recommends starting screening at age 45, and then retesting every three years.

I NEEDED TO TAKE CHARGE OF MY LIFE.

Several years ago I had a conversation with a good friend. After explaining how much stress I was going through and some of my symptoms, my friend asked, “Have you seen a cardiologist?” I really didn’t want anything else on my agenda, but I broke down and went. The cardiologist detected an irregular heartbeat and palpitations brought on by stress. For every good heartbeat I had one bad one. I started taking medications to slow down my heart rate but noticed I was struggling to breathe. At my next visit, the cardiologist said I now had three bad heartbeats for every good one and I was not going to live long like that.

I needed to take charge of my life, so I immediately began to walk and take yoga. I joined the YMCA and started attending a group exercise class. Before long, these classes became “tame” for me and I started more intense classes. Soon I forgot that I was taking these classes because it was “what the doctor ordered,” they had become part of my daily routine and something I enjoyed. Eventually my cardiologist reported that I no longer had extra heartbeats. He was amazed and asked what I had done so he could share it with his other patients. Yoga and regular exercise at the Y were the keys to my success.

The Y brings people together every day, providing opportunities to promote
healthier decisions that support physical, intellectual and spiritual strength.

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Our mission is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.