Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, killing almost 600,000 people per year. In order to bring awareness toward maintaining a “heart healthy” lifestyle, the American Heart Association has declared February as Heart Health Month.
The direct cause of heart disease is unknown, but there are many factors that increase your risk of developing this disease. Some factors we have no control over, such as age, gender, and family history. But we do have control over our lifestyle choices, which can greatly impact the risk of heart disease. A strong heart that can pump blood effectively and efficiently is less likely to be at risk of heart disease than a heart that is strained and constantly struggling to pump blood throughout the body. Maintaining a healthy weight is a key component to maintaining a strong and healthy heart. Additionally, these top five lifestyle choices will get your heart feeling happy and healthy:
- Stop smoking—smoking puts unnecessary strain on your heart and arteries, leading your heart to have to overwork and eventually tire out. Though “stop smoking” is easier said than done, our November newsletter offered very sound advice and ample resources to help get you started with smoking cessation. It is never too late to stop, and trust us, your heart will be very happy you decided to quit.
- Exercise—go for a walk, remove the snow from your yard, dance while you put away laundry, or chase after your kids around the house. Thirty minutes or more of moderate daily exercise helps strengthen your heart, gets your blood pumping, and reduces your overall risk of heart disease.
- Eat more fiber—fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains can help lower your cholesterol and help with weight management, both of which reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Eat less saturated and trans-fats—foods high in these fats include processed foods found in packages down the center aisles of grocery stores, fatty red meat, and many menu items at fast food or chain restaurants. These foods contribute to weight gain, increased blood pressure, higher cholesterol, and put extra strain on your heart, all of which increase your risk of heart disease.
- Go to the doctor—visit the doc for your annual exam and be sure to have blood work done to test for high blood pressure and/or cholesterol levels. You will also want to get screened for diabetes, if you are at risk or have a family history of the disease. Stay on top of your heart health, so that you can make appropriate changes sooner rather than later.
To find out more about the American Heart Association’s Heart health tips, visit their website.