For most of us February means Valentine’s Day, a time for couples to celebrate their love and commitment by sharing hearts of candy. But February is also American Heart Health month, a time to spread the word and encourage people to maintain a healthy heart. Heart disease is still the number one cause of death for both men and women.
With the exception of heredity or other contributing health conditions, it is well-known that cardiovascular disease has a strong correlation to lifestyle. We know that smoking, being overweight or obese; consuming too much unhealthy fats and sodium, and high blood pressure can increase the risk of this disease. In addition, a sedentary lifestyle with minimal activity in front of a TV or computer most hours of the day can also contribute largely to heart attack and stroke.
A lifetime of simple choices in what foods we eat, the amount of exercise we participate in and whether or not we chose smoke can make a big difference in the outcome of the health of our hearts and cardiovascular system. This February, make a commitment to be more mindful of heart healthy choices.
Here are some ways to begin a strategy to plan for prevention. Visit your doctor every year. Most health insurance policies will cover an annual physical 100%, which is an easy way to monitor blood pressure and check for other conditions that can raise the risk of CVD. Have cholesterol checked at least every 5 years or more frequently if you have a family history of heart disease or if you have diabetes or kidney issues.
Include more fruits and vegetables, and lean protein low in unhealthy fat, cholesterol and sodium in your diet. Use oils higher in healthy Omega 3 fatty acids, eat fish twice a week, and add flaxseed or walnuts to oatmeal. Look for more whole grain foods that are high in fiber with reduced or no added sugars. Drink more water and unsweetened beverages. Limit caffeine and alcohol.
Maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly at least 150 minutes per week. Walking 30 minutes a day at a moderate-intensity can significantly reduce risk of CVD and other diseases including diabetes.
It’s easier said than done, but if you smoke find a way to quit. There’s substantial evidence to support quitting smoking as one of the best ways to protect your health including the health of your heart and lungs — the number one cause of preventable death — smoking not only harms your health but harms the health of others around you who breathe in cigarette smoke.
Get high blood pressure and diabetes under control and reduce high cholesterol. Take any medicines as prescribed, and talk to your doctor about any side effects that you may have.
Make the commitment to the prevention of heart disease for you and for your family. Become a role model for your children and pass-on heart healthy habits that they can continue into adulthood to keep their hearts healthy for an entire life time.
February is American Heart Month. (2014, February 12). Retrieved February 7, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/features/heartmonth/
Getting Healthy. (n.d.). Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/GettingHealthy_UCM_001078_SubHomePage.jsp
Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2014 Update. (n.d.). Retrieved February 7, 2015, from http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2013/12/18/01.cir.0000441139.02102.80.citation#cited-by