It's American Heart Month! This movement is all about making ourselves more aware of our heart health, picking up new healthy habits, and lowering our risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
According to the American Heart Association, coronary heart disease, a kind of cardiovascular disease, is the number one cause of death in the United States. Fortunately, with some lifestyle changes and help from your doctor, you can take proactive steps to protect yourself and your heart.
So in honor of American Heart Month, here are 10 lifestyle tips for staying heart-healthy:
1. Monitor Your Blood Pressure And Cholesterol
Two of the biggest risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol. Specifically, these issues can lead to coronary artery disease, the most common kind of heart disease in the United States.
This disease occurs when the heart struggles to get enough oxygen-rich blood, often as a result of plaques in the arteries. These plaques are caused by high cholesterol, and in turn, they can cause higher blood pressure by getting in the way of blood flow. For this reason, if you treat high cholesterol, you're likely to see lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart disease as a result.
Make sure to have your cholesterol and blood pressure checked at least once a year, or more often if your doctor recommends it. You can even take a simple blood pressure test at most pharmacies!
2. Eat A Heart-Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of heart disease. What we eat has a large impact on our bodies and our heart health. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, beans, nuts, and seeds can help keep your arteries healthy by reducing bad cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol.
In addition to eating heart-healthy foods, it's also important to limit unhealthy fats such as trans fat and saturated fat. These fats are found in processed and fried foods, as well as red meat, and are well-known for raising cholesterol and clogging arteries.
That said, there are healthy fats, too! Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are found in avocados, nuts, seeds, and fish, as well as some vegetable oils like olive oil, can actually help reduce cholesterol and improve your overall heart health.
3. Fit In Your 150 Minutes
Another crucial way to keep your heart healthy is by exercising it! The CDC recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, or 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week. Or, if running is more your style, you could also aim for 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity.
If that sounds like a lot, know that you can break it down even further. Don't have a half hour every weekday to dedicate to exercise? You probably have 10 minutes! By taking several 'mini-workouts' throughout the day, you can reap the same benefits as one long session.
Moreover, some activity is better than no activity at all. If you struggle to reach 150 minutes, don't let that stop you from trying to exercise at all. Even just taking the dog on a longer walk than usual can make a difference.
4. Limit Alcohol Intake
Excessive drinking can be hard on the heart. In fact, it can contribute to high blood pressure, stroke, and even heart failure. If you like to drink alcohol, it's important to do so responsibly. The CDC recommends(opens in a new tab) that women have no more than one drink per day, while men should limit themselves to two drinks a day. In other words, stick to low-to-moderate levels of drinking, and make sure not to overdo it.
5.Manage Your Diabetes
Prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes all carry an increased risk of developing heart disease. This is because diabetes can cause high blood sugar, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high triglycerides (a kind of fat found in the blood), all of which contribute to the development of heart disease.
However, it's important to know that diabetes can be managed! In addition to eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, it's also important that people with diabetes stay in contact with their doctors and manage their blood sugar levels. By keeping your diabetes under control, you can reduce your risk of developing heart disease and other serious health conditions.
6. Maintain A Healthy Weight
Your body weight also plays a huge role in your heart health, often because it comes hand-in-hand with many of the issues mentioned above. For instance, people who are obese are also more likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and diabetes. Plus, people who don't eat healthy diets, live sedentary lifestyles, and drink too heavily are more likely to be obese. These factors all align to make obesity a common risk factor for heart disease.
Fortunately, the above tips can also help you lose weight, keep it off, and protect your heart! In fact, losing just 5% - 10% of your body weight can help(opens in a new tab) you improve blood pressure, lower blood sugar, and reduce cholesterol levels, ultimately decreasing your risk of heart disease.
If you've struggled to lose weight, talk to your doctor about Medi-Weightloss® at Prima CARE. This physician-directed weight loss program is designed to help you achieve your weight loss goals in a safe, healthy, and successful way.
7. Quit Smoking
Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, and many of them are toxic. Not only do these toxins have a huge effect on your heart and blood vessels—causing an increased risk of heart disease and stroke—but they can also damage other parts of the body, like your lungs.
If you smoke, or if you're frequently around secondhand smoke, it's time to make a change. Talk to your doctor about resources that can help you quit, such as counseling, prescription medications, and nicotine replacement therapy.
In fact, within just minutes of your last cigarette, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. Within 1-2 years, your risk of a heart attack decreases sharply(opens in a new tab). In 3-6 years, your risk of coronary heart disease will drop by half, too! In other words, taking this step is an incredibly important and effective way to protect your heart in the long run.
8. Take Time To De-Stress
Another important part of living a heart-healthy lifestyle is taking some me-time. Stress can take a toll on your heart health in several ways. First, it increases the production of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which can increase blood pressure and heart rate. It can also lead to unhealthy behaviors, such as overeating, drinking alcohol, or smoking cigarettes.
The good news? There are plenty of enjoyable ways to reduce stress, such as deep breathing, yoga, mindfulness meditation, and massage therapy. Taking a few minutes each day to relax in a quiet place, focus on yourself, practice yoga poses, or read a book can work wonders to reduce stress levels and protect your heart.
9. Know Your Family History
The choices you make in your day-to-day life aren't the only factors that affect your heart health. Your genes also play a huge role, so it's important to take time to learn your family history.
Various types of heart disease and heart-related conditions are known to run in families, like coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart attacks, and even heart failure. Collect your family history by:
- Talking to your parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, and uncles.
- Including both sides of your family.
- Making note of which relatives have had heart issues and at what age they were diagnosed.
- Knowing the age and cause of death for family members who have passed away.
- Updating your personal record regularly.
- Sharing your family healthy history with your doctor and other family members.
10. Go To Your Annual Check-Ups
Your Prima CARE doctor is your partner in living a heart-healthy lifestyle. It's recommended that adults see their doctor at least once every year for a check-up. During this appointment, your doctor will review any current health concerns and check for potential signs of heart disease.
Your annual visit is also your chance to discuss any lifestyle changes you want to make and ask questions. And if it's been more than five years since your last cholesterol test, or if you're at an increased risk for heart disease, your doctor may suggest additional tests or screenings.
At Prima CARE, we believe in preventive care and taking a proactive approach to your health. With our help, you can make smart lifestyle choices that will keep your heart healthy for years to come. Contact us today for more information or to schedule an appointment.
The Prima CARE team is here for you every step of the way! Schedule your appointment online today and get started on your heart-health journey.