Let’s talk heart disease! February is American Heart Month and we want to share ways you can keep your heart healthy. Why? Because heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. Uncontrolled high blood pressure is dangerous and far too common. It usually has no signs or symptoms, but it does have consequences. Having numerous health conditions, your lifestyle, your age and family history are all things that can increase your risk for heart disease.
Heart disease doesn’t only occur in older adults either. Now, we see it happening more frequently to younger adults as the conditions that lead to heart disease are developing at younger ages. Certain risk factors for heart disease cannot be controlled, like your age or family history, but you can take steps to lower your risk by changing the factors you can control.
Choosing a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet that is low in sodium and saturated fat is key to preventing heart disease. The more whole foods you have on your plate, the better it is for your body. Eating processed foods like packaged snacks, sugary cereals, and drinks will leave you more prone to heart disease. Whole foods include non-processed foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish and poultry, beans, and nuts. These should be incorporated into your everyday meal plan. Also, avoid drinking too much alcohol – it can increase your risk of high blood pressure, obesity, liver disease, and more. Men should have no more than 2 drinks per day, and women no more than 1 drink per day.
People who are overweight or obese have a higher risk for heart disease. Carrying extra weight puts stress on the heart and blood vessels, so losing weight will help decrease your risk by putting less strain on your body. We suggest finding a friend or family member who also wants to reach and maintain a healthy weight to check in with regularly to stay motivated. Try planning a weekend hiking trip, walking around your local farmers market, or maybe signing up for a fitness class together. Having a partner to perform these healthy activities with will make you more likely to stay on track with your weight and activity goals.
Saying “No” to Smoking
There’s no question that smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Ask your doctor for help or try joining a support group.
Coping with Stress
Reducing stress helps your heart health. Grab a friend or family member to do a daily relaxing activity with, like walking, yoga, meditation. Regardless of how busy your schedule is, it’s important to make sure you are taking time for some self-care. If you feel like you are still struggling, talk to you doctor. They can make suggestions tailored to you and may also choose to refer you to a qualified mental health provider.
Improving Sleep Quality
Getting good sleep isn’t just important for your energy levels, it is critical for your heart health too. Most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep each night. Not getting enough sleep over time can lead to serious health problems and make other health problems even worse. De-stressing can help you get better sleep, as does getting a daily dose of sunlight. Try going for a morning or lunchtime walk. Or instead of watching TV before bed, relax by listening to music, reading, or taking a bath.
Taking Charge of Medical Conditions
Work with your healthcare team to manage health conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. If you take medicine to treat any of these conditions, be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully and give your medication list to any specialists you’re seeing. Schedule appointments with your doctor to discuss your treatment plan regularly and don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. Get moving for at least 150 minutes per week. Doing little things like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, biking around the neighborhood or to the store, or wheeling yourself in your wheelchair are all physical activities that support your health.
When it comes to your heart health, you’re in the driver’s seat. During American Heart Month, there is no better time to learn about your risk for heart disease and to start taking steps to protect your heart. Check out this calendar from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute that gives you daily suggestions on how to make healthier choices. By living a healthy lifestyle, you can help keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels normal and lower your risk for heart disease and heart attack.
It’s important to CCP that our community is heart healthy. On National Wear Red Day, CCP is dressing down and going red in support of American Heart Association's national movement to end heart disease and stroke in women. Join us and add a pop of red to your outfit on Friday, February 7th and pledge to be more active to protect your heart this American Heart Month. Take a photo in your red gear and share it using the hashtag #WearRedDay! Follow along our Instagram as CCP goes red on Friday, February 7th.