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Heart Smart Living
Heart Smart Living

Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.

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Fewer Heart Attacks, but More Unhealthy Lifestyles

Is it any wonder that health care costs are rising?

Between 1999 and 2005, deaths from heart disease and stroke plummeted by 25 percent. That’s great news, but it’s not because people are making healthier choices or giving up bad habits. In fact, a recent analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that our lifestyles have become unhealthier than ever over the past 10 years. The researchers looked at seven basic health metrics:

  • Smoking
  • Physical activity
  • Body mass index
  • Healthy diet
  • Cholesterol levels
  • Blood pressure
  • Hemoglobin A-1-C (a measurement of blood sugar and diabetes)

From 1998-2004, only 2% of Americans met the optimal levels for all seven metrics. That sounds dismal, but it gets even worse. Between 2005-2010, the percentage meeting all seven points plummeted to a paltry 1.2%.

In 1998, cardiovascular disease, including disability and stroke, cost the U.S. economy $286.5 billion dollars. In 2010, the cost soared to $444 billion. Even accounting for inflation, the message is clear. We are saving lives through pharmaceuticals and medical technology, but at an enormous cost.

As a cardiologist, I often feel that I am fighting an uphill battle. It is gratifying to see that we in the medical profession are making progress, but frustrating to know that many of the drugs and procedures that we prescribe and perform would be wholly unnecessary if my patients would take it upon themselves to commit to a healthier, cleaner, and more affirmative way of life.

Creating change is never easy. So much of our daily existence is tied up with the way we eat our meals, enjoy our leisure, and spend time with family. However, these are exactly the things that need to change in order to assure our economic, physical, and spiritual well-being. You’re heard it before, but it is worth hearing again. Choose a heart smart diet, exercise two and one half hours each, week, don’t smoke, and cut back on the portions if you need to lose weight. By making these simple changes, you may save your own life, and the lives of those you love. At the very least, you’ll save some money.

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About the Author


Dr. Samaan is an acclaimed cardiologist, writer, and heart health educator.