February is Heart Health month. It’s a great time to make a pledge to yourself to keep your heart healthy and start good habits that will last throughout the year. Here are some tips on how you can lower your risk of heart disease:
A healthy diet can help lower your risk of heart disease. Eating foods with the right nutrients will keep your heart strong and healthy.
- Reduce your sodium intake. Eating an excess amount of sodium increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. Avoiding salty foods will help you maintain a normal blood pressure.
- Avoid fatty foods. Foods high in saturated fat and transfat can raise your blood cholesterol level and clog your arteries. Eating less fatty foods can reduce your blood cholesterol and lower your risk of coronary artery disease.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are natural sources of vitamins, minerals and other substances that help prevent cardiovascular disease.
- Choose whole grains. Whole grains are a good source of fiber that helps regulate blood pressure and contributes to a healthy heart. Substitute refined grain products with whole grains, like 100% whole wheat bread instead of white bread.
- Control your portion size. It’s important to be selective about what you eat, but also how much you eat. Use a small plate or bowl to control your portions and reduce your caloric intake.
Staying active is one of the most effective ways to prevent heart disease. Exercising regularly can help you lose weight, lower your blood pressure and give you more energy.
- Exercise to strengthen your heart. When you work out, you strengthen muscles throughout your body, including your heart muscle. Exercising makes your heart stronger so that it performs more efficiently, such as being better able to pump blood throughout your body and pulling oxygen from your blood.
- Stay active and improve your cholesterol level. Regular exercise can reduce “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood and increase the “good” cholesterol that lowers heart disease.
- Exercise at least 2.5 hours a week. Studies show that to maintain a good health, adults need at least 2.5 hours weekly of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking. In addition, you need muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week.
Smoking has detrimental effects to your health, but particularly damages your heart. If you give up smoking, you will be doing your heart and health a favor.
- Smoking causes numerous heart problems. The nicotine in smoke causes a number of heart problems, such as reducing how much oxygen your heart gets, increasing blood pressure, accelerating your heart rate and causing blood clots.
- Heart disease is directly related to smoking. Smokers are two to four times more likely to get heart disease than non-smokers.
- Quit smoking to lower your risk of heart disease. After you stop smoking, you are at less risk to get heart disease or high blood pressure. After 1 to 2 years of being tobacco-free, your odds of getting heart disease are much less. Your overall health will improve and you’ll live longer.
Although more research is needed to determine the correlation between stress and heart disease, studies have shown that managing stress can lower heart health risks.
- Lowering stress can prevent health problems like heart disease, depression, and high blood pressure.
- Practice deep breathing and meditation. These are great ways to help your body relax and manage stress to regulate your blood flow and maintain a normal blood pressure.
- Reducing stress can mean getting rid of bad habits. Although there is no direct link between stress and heart disease, chronic stress may cause some people to drink too much alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or overeat. All of these habits cause heart problems, like increasing your blood pressure and damaging artery walls. So a reduction in stress might prevent these bad habits, therefore keeping the heart healthy.
Follow these tips to keep your heart strong and healthy for 2024 and in the years to come. Take good care of your heart. You will feel better and live longer.
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If you think you may have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately, call your doctor, or go to the emergency room/urgent care.
American Heart Association www.heart.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/