February is Heart Awareness Month

Article from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, causing one in four deaths each year.
But there’s a lot you can do to live a heart-healthy life — and connecting with others can make your efforts even more successful.

Studies show that if you join forces with people at home or online, you have a better chance of staying motivated. Best of all, you don’t have to make big changes all at once. Small steps can get you where you
want to go. Gather your friends and family and make a commitment to your heart health, together.

Here’s How to Start:

Move more: Get at least 2½ hours of physical activity each week — that’s just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. In addition, do muscle strengthening exercises at least 2 days a week. Can’t carve out a lot of time in your day? Don’t chuck your goal, chunk it! Try 5, 10, 15 minutes a few times daily. Some physical activity is better than none.

Eat healthy foods: A healthy diet that is low in sodium and saturated fat is key to heart disease prevention. Try the highly rated Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan. It recommends:

  • Eating vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
  • Eating fish, poultry, beans, nuts, vegetable oils, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products
  • Limiting foods that are high in saturated fat and sodium
  • Limiting sugar and other sweeteners

Aim for a healthy weight: Being overweight is hard on your heart. It increases your risk of having heart disease, a stroke, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Choosing heart-healthy foods and getting regular exercise will help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Reduce stress and improve sleep: Stress can contribute to high blood pressure and other heart risks. Not getting enough sleep or regularly getting poor quality sleep increases the risk of having high blood pressure, heart disease, and other medical conditions. Aim for 7 – 8 hours of sleep per night.

Quit smoking: The chemicals in tobacco smoke harm your heart and blood vessels in many ways. Quitting is hard, but many people have succeeded, and you can too. Set a quit date and let those close to you know about it. Ask your family and friends for support in your effort.

Know your numbers: Meet your heart health goals by keeping track of how much you exercise, your blood pressure, your cholesterol numbers — all of which can impact your heart health — and tell your doctor how you’re doing.