February is American Heart Health Month – and it makes us wonder, why do we have an entire month dedicated to heart health? Not just a day, or a week, but a whole month. Here’s why…
1 in 4 people die from heart disease in America every year. It is the LEADING cause of death for men and women. If 1 and 4 people die, then we understand why we spend 1 of our 12 months dedicated to educating the nation on how to live a healthy heart lifestyle.
Read this list of 9 preventative steps to a healthy heart. Count how many you have already incorporated into your lifestyle, and write down the areas that need improvement.
1. Stay active!
If you’re starting at zero, the only place to go is up! Try adding one hour of moderate activity to your schedule 3 times per week, or thirty minutes of high intensity activity 4 times per week.
2. Eat healthy.
A heart healthy diet is packed with fruits and vegetables. Always choose lean meats and try to incorporate fish into your diet at least two times per week. Don’t forget about nuts, legumes and seeds! Choose foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and added sugar.
3. Schedule your annual preventative doctor visit.
Even healthy people need doctors. Many times, there can be no physical symptoms of sudden heart failure. A heart health screening will check your heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and other factors that may reveal the need for a lifestyle change. If warning signs occur, you can make the necessary changes to your diet and exercise program to improve your health.
4. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
A little stress is healthy for you. It’s your body’s natural reaction to a situation. However too much stress, especially over a long period of time, causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Stress isn’t just mental. It can be physically damaging too. Stress management is different for everyone, so find a technique that works for you. Remember to make time for the things you love to do. A workout is also a great way to counterbalance stress.
5. Know your family health history.
If you have a relative with a history of heart disease, you’re at a higher risk – especially if this family member is a parent or sibling. Focus on risk factors you can control. Have a regular workout routine, eat a balanced diet, maintain a healthy weight and never skip your annual preventative visit.
6. Do it together.
Everyone needs a little accountability sometimes. A personal cheerleader to help you on days where you don’t feel like giving it your all. Tell your family and friends about your healthy heart goal. You’ll be surprised at who is there to support you, and who wants to do it with you.
7. Maintain a healthy weight.
Ask your doctor what weight range is a healthy goal for you to maintain. If you’re not in the right range, do everything it takes to get yourself there – the healthy way! Once you’re at your goal weight, you can maintain it with a diet and exercise plan.
8. Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke.
Smoking is a dangerous habit that can lead to nicotine addiction, heart disease and lung cancer. If you’re not a smoker, you may still be at risk to secondhand smoke. Be cautious around smokers at your home or work. Smoke exposure puts you at a much greater risk for heart or lung disease.
9. Follow your treatment plan. Don’t give up!
It’s important to stick to treatment plans – whether that’s a diet plan, exercise recommendation, or a medication for heart health. This is so important. A treatment plan can lengthen your life, reverse negative symptoms, and greatly decrease your risk for sudden heart failures such as a heart attack, stroke and cardiac arrest.
How many steps are you taking toward a healthy heart? How many do you need to work on? It’s time to make an active decision and live intentionally. It’s never too late to get started and no goal is too big to reach!