Lawyers have heart…

Really, they do! And they are all about supporting the American Heart Association and heart health.

Elaine Blais of Goodwin Proctor, LLP and Reena L. Pande, MD

Last week, I spoke at the kickoff breakfast for the Lawyers Have Heart 5K, a fabulous fundraising event through which the Boston legal community raises awareness about heart disease, promotes exercise and healthy living, and at the same time, supports the American Heart Association (AHA).

As a cardiologist, avid runner, and a researcher of exercise in vascular disease, it was perfectly fitting to have the opportunity to speak about heart health at last week’s  kickoff breakfast. I am all about promoting healthy living, motivating and inspiring my patients to live healthy, and supporting the AHA.

Some stats (the bad news and the good news)…

Heart disease remains the No. 1 killer of men, and women. More adults die from heart disease than the next three most common causes of death combined, and that includes all forms of cancer. Someone has a heart attack every 30 seconds, and someone dies as a result of heart disease every minute.

These are sobering and staggering statistics, but there is good news! The majority of the risk of heart disease is completely modifiable. Let me say that differently. You have the power to change your behavior to prevent heart disease from developing. Let me say that again! You can prevent heart disease from developing! I acknowledge that you can’t change your genes or your family history, but here are some things you can do:

  • If you smoke, quit, now.
  • If you are overweight, lose weight, now.
  • If you have diabetes, or high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, get these treated, now.
  • If you don’t exercise, get moving, now!

How much exercise is enough?

So this event is a road race, so let’s focus a bit on physical activity. Patients often feel like the official recommendations about weekly exercise seem daunting and out of reach. Here’s the party line:

  • 75 minutes/week of vigorous exercise (such as running, playing sports, swimming, etc.)

OR

  • 150 minutes/week of moderate exercise (walking, casual biking, ballroom dancing, pushing a lawnmower)

This is the equivalent of 3 30-minute bouts of more vigorous exercise or 5 30-minute spurts of more moderate activity weekly. But honestly, some activity is better than no activity. My message is to do the activity that you enjoy best. If you don’t like walking, then don’t walk. Take a dance class, walk the golf course, climb the stairs in your office building, bike, whatever. Just move!  A patient I saw recently with heart disease loves going to Home Depot, just to browse the aisles. So I told him that his exercise routine should be to go to his local Home Depot and walk the length of every aisle 2 or 3 times. Voila! 30 minutes of physical activity.

Why support the fight against heart disease?

An event like the Lawyers Have Heart 5K is a great way to take charge of your own health, to promote a great cause, and support the American Heart Association.  The AHA is all about promoting healthier lives and reducing the impact of heart disease through numerous programs, such as the Go Red For Women campaign, Go Red Por Tu Corazón to promote heart health in Latina women, and the Power To End Stroke program. The AHA also distributes millions of dollars in support of research in cardiovascular disease.

Where do we go from here?

The AHA has put forth the following lofty strategic impact goal for 2020: To improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent, by the year 2020. 

Lofty indeed, but it’s not going to happen by finding a new magic bullet pill or throwing statins and blood-pressure lowering pills at our patients. It’s only by supporting events like the Lawyers Have Heart 5K and promoting cardiovascular health and wellness that we stand a remote chance of achieving this goal.

So remember, heart disease is really common and the risk factors are clear (smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, and physical inactivity). But, all of these risk factors, you have the power to change.

 

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