COLUMN: Heart disease still leading cause of death

— Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, and stroke is the number fourth cause of death and a leading cause of disability. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease – also called cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease – is a simple term used to describe several problems related to plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries, or atherosclerosis. As the plaque builds up, the arteries narrow, making it more difficult for blood to flow and creating a risk for heart attack or stroke. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for both. Obesity can trigger high blood pressure, high cholesterol as well as heart disease.

The Centers for Disease Control recently published adult obesity rates in the United States. A dozen states had a rate above 30 percent. The percentage of New Yorkers considered obese was 24.5 percent. This is slightly lower than it was five years ago but still well above the goal New York outlined for 2013 of 15 percent. Health professionals are concerned about this trend, for the health of our country. Further, according to the American Heart Association, the estimated annual cost of obesity-related diseases is $147 billion a year, which accounts for nearly 17 percent of medical spending in the United States, according to recent research.

No matter what your age, everyone can benefit from a healthy diet and adequate physical activity. For one thing, many don't realize how much sugar and salt the average adult is supposed to consume versus how much is actually consumed. The American Heart Association recommends for women, no more than about 6 teaspoons of sugar. For men, it's about 9 teaspoons. To give you an idea, one 12-ounce soda contains 8 teaspoons of sugar so it's a good idea to limit sugared beverages.

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