---- — Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the North Country. That’s a frightening fact, but, for most people, heart disease is preventable with lifestyle changes.
Organizers of the local Go Red for Women effort and annual Heart Walk have been working for years to educate people about the danger created by a sedentary lifestyle, poor nutrition and hazardous habits like smoking.
Today brings an opportunity to literally take some steps toward a healthier lifestyle. The American Heart Association is encouraging everyone to walk for 30 minutes on April 3.
The effort focuses on people walking for exercise for this simple reason: It has the lowest dropout rate of any physical activity, according to the Heart Association.
That makes sense. Walking is easy — almost anyone of any age, weight or athletic skill can do it. Walking is inexpensive — all it takes is a decent pair of shoes. Walking can be done almost anywhere — you don’t have to join a gym; heck, if you want, you can take laps around your home or walk up and down stairs.
The Heart Association notes that walking vigorously for 30 minutes a day can reduce high blood pressure, cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.
It is recommended that adults get at least 20 minutes a day of moderate physical activity. But you don’t have to start off right at 20 minutes. Starting is what matters, and often small, achievable plans are better than beginning with bigger, unattainable goals that can leave you feeling discouraged.
The Heart Association suggests that people form walking groups with co-workers. Harold Hance of Mountain Valley Integrated Solutions, who is chair of the 2013 Plattsburgh Heart Walk, finds time for physical activity.
”I am in a fast-paced industry,” he said in a news release, “but I try to make time to walk or run every day at lunch time. I encourage my employees to do this, as well. As a team, we are making positive changes throughout the company so that we all benefit from better health, fewer sick days and less stress.”
The American Heart Association can help businesses and individuals get started with a walking program. Checks the tips at startwalkingnow.org. It will help you live longer. “Studies show that some adults may gain as many as two hours of life expectancy for each hour of regular, vigorous physical activity,” the organization says.
Adults have an additional, important reason to start a walking regimen: children. It’s been clear for years that childhood obesity is an epidemic in America. In addition to poor eating habits, kids just don’t get the kind of exercise they did years ago.
Parents can set a great example by getting their family out of the house and on a walk. And it’s a great way to bond, to talk, to wind down from the overconnected, high-intensity world we live in.
Do what you can to keep heart disease from affecting family — one step at a time.