February is American Heart Month and I just celebrated by taking a brisk walk. It’s important to show some love to your heart since Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is the number one killer for men and women in the U.S. and is a leading cause of disability. CVDs including heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure can be prevented by healthy habits like diet and exercise and not smoking. The CDC offers some great tips to improving heart health, check out their website for expanded information- remember each step in the right direction is a step closer to a healthy heart!
1. Work with your health care team- make sure you are seeing your doctor at least once a year for regular check-ups. Even if you are feeling great, they can check for things that may otherwise go unnoticed (like diabetes and high blood pressure).
2. Check your blood pressure and cholesterol- I have to keep reminding my kids that the blood pressure machines at the drug store aren’t toys to play on while we wait! High blood pressure typically has no symptoms, so check it regularly. A blood test for cholesterol is recommended every five years.
3. Eat a healthy diet and keep a healthy weight- An apple a day…. Adults should be eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, foods low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium and high in fiber. If you need help planning meals, selecting the right foods, physical activity ideas and exercise trackers, ChooseMyPlate.gov is a terrific resource.
4. Exercise. Often.- You don’t have to run out and join a gym. It’s easy to get your blood moving doing daily activities like taking the stairs, raking the yard, or parking at the far end of the parking lot. The Surgeon General recommends that adults should have at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. That’s less than 25 minutes per day to show some love to your heart.
5. Don’t smoke and limit alcohol- If you smoke, quit. Talk to your doctor about strategies and medications that can help you with the addiction. Alcohol overuse can increase blood pressure. Men should limit alcohol intake to two drinks per day and women to one.
6. Manage diabetes and take your heart medication- Work closely with your health care team to ensure your diabetes is being managed the best way possible. If you are taking heart related medications, make sure you are taking the right dose and follow directions for the medication correctly. If you are having any side-effects or concerns about the medication, bring this to the attention of your health care team right away.
If these recommendations seem overwhelming, take it one step at a time. Ask friends and family to support you and share your goals with them. For more inspiration, check out these Hearty Healthy Pins.