(Ezra Shaw/NBAE/Getty Images)

Wellness Wednesdays, presented by Stanford Health Care

Heart Health

Throughout the remainder of the 2017-18 NBA season, the Official Team Physicians of the Golden State Warriors, along with Chelsea Lane – the Warriors' Head of Physical Performance & Sports Medicine – and various Physicians at Stanford Medicine will provide input and suggestions on some of the most common health problems facing everyday people today.

Last time, we covered New Year’s Resolutions, and how to approach and maintain them. In this installment of Wellness Wednesdays, Lane and Dr. Victor Froelicher, Director of the Sports Cardiology Clinic at Stanford University, tackle the subject of heart health.

Since 1964, February has been designated as American Heart Month in the United States, and for good reason. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. As such, "American Heart Month – a federally designated event – is a great way to remind Americans to focus on their hearts and encourage them to get their families, friends and communities involved," says Dr. Froelicher.

Both the Warriors’ physicians and the players themselves understand the importance of serving as role models when it comes to cardiovascular health.

"Athletes represent to the public optimal health and fitness," says Dr. Froelicher. "They are role models both for standards of behavior and health. The public wears what they wear and tends to buy what they promote. Thus, our athletes’ embrace and support of the American Heart Month can have a large effect on the public."

Now, you may be thinking, the athletes these doctors deal with on a daily basis are in such peak physical shape that they aren’t the ones who should be worried about heart health. However, Lane explains that’s not the case; this is a health issue relevant to any and everyone:

"So whilst our players are fit and healthy men themselves, it is likely in their lifetimes, just like you and I, that someone they know or love will be affected by heart disease," Lane says. "The great news is many of these deaths are preventable, so any encouragement or inspiration our players can give to the wider community to take on heart-smart practices is valuable."

As far as heart-smart practices go, both exercise and nutrition play important roles. For exercise, Lane recommends a gradual build-up:

"For those new to physical activity, work to build up to at least two hours of moderate exercise, like walking, a week," she says. "A combination of a couple of hours of moderate and more vigorous cardiovascular activity, like jogging or spinning, in a week is a good goal to work up to. Ideally, finding a way to add a couple of sessions of whole body resistance/strength exercise to your weekly cardiovascular exercise would help round out your overall heart-smart conditioning plan."

Then, when it comes to diet, Lane insists you can’t go wrong with more vegetables:

"Veggies, veggies and more fresh veggies!" she pleads. "A vegetable-heavy diet adds lots of fiber to your day, helping to control cholesterol. Try throwing one or two vegetarian meals into the mix each week to cut down on your overall meat intake, and bring more fish (like tuna and salmon) into your regular rotation. Take a closer look at the sodium content of sauces and condiments you add to your food, and choose low sodium options to help keep your blood pressure in check. Learn more about the difference between good and bad fats, and do whatever you can to cut the bad fats out of your week and boost up your good fat intake."

So, no matter who you are, heart health is something to be taken seriously. Luckily, no matter who you are, there are plenty of easy things, like eating more nutritiously and exercising more often, that you can do to live a healthier lifestyle. While heart disease affects millions of people around the world, the preventative measures are often right at our disposal.

"How wonderful that something so debilitating and deadly as heart disease can largely be prevented with education, some regular exercise and taking care with what we eat!" Lane exclaims. "We can put ourselves in the driving seat on this one and take control with the power of good choices."

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