American Heart Association

Steph Whiteside/Side Effects Public Media

Most people think of heart disease as something that only happens in old age. That’s not always the case. But younger people may not recognize symptoms of a cardiac emergency because they don’t think it could happen to them.

CPR in America / Nic Minetor. Fiona

This week, the American Heart Association released updated guidelines for CPR, encouraging more bystanders to help in case of sudden cardiac arrest by calling 9-1-1 and starting CPR.

More than 326,000 people experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital each year. About 90 percent of them die, often because bystanders don’t know how to start CPR or are afraid they’ll do it incorrectly.

stock photo

John Kennedy, M.D. wrote the recently published book The Heart Health Bible, which presents a simple five-step plan to preventing cardiovascular disease. Dr. Kennedy is a board member of the American Heart Association and clinical associate professor of cardiology at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Here, he discusses his book and what listeners can start doing now to prevent cardiovascular disease. 

Find more of our coverage of chronic disease prevention here.

Highlights from the interview:

On the paradox of heart disease:
[It's] a paradox about heart disease that it's the number one killer of both men and women and it's largely preventable. As a country one of the main reasons for this is we live this fast-paced, multi tasking lifestyle. And when we're stressed we tend to exercise less and eat comfort foods and we become overweight. And when we're overweight, our internal physiology changes and we're more prone to develop high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and to become physically inactive. And those are risk factors for heart disease. So it all starts with our lifestyle of being frenzied and stressed out.

On starting early in life with prevention:

90 percent of 12-year-old kids have the beginnings of atherosclerosis, which is the disease the causes heart attacks. We know it starts early. It typically has long asymptomatic lag time. It starts early but if we take steps to prevent it, if we exercise regularly, eat right, we can prevent it from ever happening.

On getting exercise - wherever and whenever you can:

The more you move the more efficient your heart will be. It's better to move a little bit than not at all. A study showed that people who sit for eight hours a day at a desk and never get up except for lunch time, have a three-fold increase in cardiac risk compared to those people who get up once an hour. Moving is so important for protecting everyone from heart disease. The recommended daily exercise by American Heart Association is 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day, that means walking briskly for 30 minutes every day. You can also do simple things, like take the stairs at work or take farther from work and walk to the office. or ride your bike a couple times a week. All those things are really good for your heart.