Care for your heart health
Hearts are everywhere in February – in the form of chocolates, candies and red and pink decorations. It’s only right that we share a little love for our own heart health this Valentine’s Day month.
One person dies every 37 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease, resulting in about 647,000 deaths each year. It is the leading cause of death for most racial and ethnic groups, as well as the leading cause of death among both men and women.
Your heart works hard for you 24/7 and doesn’t take any breaks, so why not show it some TLC? Besides asking your doctor to check your blood pressure and cholesterol every 3-5 years, there are many things you can do to improve your heart health and make yourself less likely to suffer heart disease.
Show your body some love
There are many lifestyle changes large and small that impact your heart health. While altering your lifestyle in a single month might be unrealistic, beginning to engage in healthy behavior will improve your heart health and your whole self.
Quit smoking. While this is easier said than done, ditching cigarettes does wonders not just for your lungs, but for your heart as well. Smoking is one of the top controllable risk factors for heart disease. Free resources and medications are available to help you along the way, and there are apps and programs to help you be successful in your journey to becoming smoke-free.
Pass on the salt. Reducing your salt intake is good for your blood pressure. You can even reduce your salt intake without sacrificing the flavor of your food! When you make food at home, try replacing salt with low sodium savory flavors like garlic, pepper, dill or other herbs and spices.
Increase your movement. While it can be challenging for busy people to implement a workout into their routine, taking opportunities to increase your movement can help improve your heart health. Whether it’s standing and stretching every hour at work, or dancing to music while doing your evening chores, look for ways to break up hours of inactivity throughout your day.
Eat heart-healthy fuel. Your heart works best when it is running on clean fuel. Make sure you’re eating a lot of whole, plan-based foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and fewer refined or processed foods like white bread, pasta, crackers, and cookies.
Give your heart a break
Resting, sleeping, and relieving stress are all ways to help improve your heart health. Sticking to 7-8 hours of sleep a night results in healthier arteries. Managing stress in a healthy way is very important to your overall heart health and helps improve your ability to stick to your healthy habits.
Make it a point to engage in a healthy, relaxing habit at the end of each day, such as knitting or going for a walk. Spend time laughing and talking with people you love. Even cuddling a pet has shown signs of improving heart function and decreasing chances of fatal heart disease.
There is much more to being healthy than losing weight. Being well-rested and having healthy stress coping mechanisms can have a positive impact on the health of your heart and prevent you from engaging in unhealthy behaviors.