February is American Heart Month. Although Valentine’s Day marks the halfway point of February, there’s still plenty of time to focus on our heart health, as we should be doing all year long anyway.
As the leading cause of death in the US, heart disease is bound to touch all of us at some point in our lives, through personal experience or the loss of a loved one.
There are so many small steps you can take to help your own heart. Every year, the American Heart Association suggests activities for taking control of your heart health. February is the perfect time to revisit your New Year’s resolutions and check your progress.
Here are 6 ways to improve your heart health:
- Get active. The smallest increase in physical activity can have great benefits for your heart. Try standing if you normally sit, walking if you normally ride, running if you normally walk…you get the idea!
- Follow a healthy diet. Everyone’s nutritional needs are different but, in general, heart-healthy diets are low in fat, sugar, sodium, and processed foods. Fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and high-fiber items are considered the best choices for you.
- Control your cholesterol. Clogging up your arteries with fat is extremely hazardous to your heart. Exercising can lower your cholesterol, and so can making positive dietary changes.
- Manage your blood pressure. Stress is dangerous to your heart, as well. Check in with yourself throughout the day to see if you need a break. Small amounts of tension can add up to big problems. Breathing exercises, meditation, and stretching are just three ways you can de-stress. Find what works for you, whether it is going for a short walk or putting on some calming music.
- Maintain a healthy weight. For someone who’s overweight, losing just a few pounds can ease some stress on the heart. In addition to helping your clothes fit better, healthy weight loss usually has the added bonus of lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Stop smoking. There’s just no disputing the medical facts: Smoking alone contributes to the risk of heart disease, while smoking combined with other factors (such as not exercising) significantly increases that risk. Quitting is difficult, but there are resources out there to help you.
These are just some quick tips to get the ball rolling. We’re not doctors, so be sure to ask for professional advice before making any major lifestyle changes. Happy (Healthy) Hearts Day!