According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. The good news is that you can do something about it! February is American Heart Month and the perfect time to take steps to prevent and control heart disease. Here are 10 tips and links to help keep your heart healthy.
1) Eat five servings of fruit and vegetables a day. While it may sound like a lot, with some practice, adding fruits and vegetables to your meals and snacks becomes second nature. In addition to being heart-healthy, fresh fruits and veggies are tasty and come with a host of other health benefits.
2) Stay active. The CDC recommends regular muscle strengthening and aerobic exercise for adults, cleared by their doctor to do so. Visit the CDC’s Physical Activity page for guidelines. Then, find activities you enjoy, whether it’s workout DVDs, classes at the gym or fitness in the great outdoors.
3) Lower your sodium intake. Sodium (i.e. salt) is hidden in most processed foods. Sodium can increase blood pressure by holding fluids in the body. The American Heart Association recommends eating less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day and offers tips on how to do so.
4) Limit alcohol. If you drink, drink in moderation, which generally means one drink a day (if your doctor deems that acceptable given any other health conditions). Visit Heart.org for more information.
5) Stay clear of foods high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. Read “Good Fats, Bad Fats: How to Choose” from Health.com to learn more. Click here for heart-healthy recipes, including tasty dessert recipes.
6) Don’t smoke. Smoking is a major cause of heart disease. For resources on quitting, visit Smokefree.gov.
7) Maintain a healthy weight. Overweight people have a higher risk of heart disease. Visit the CDC’s Healthy Weight page to assess your weight. If you need to shed pounds, read AARP’s “10 Strategies to Lose Weight”.
8) Watch your blood pressure. High blood pressure increases your risk for heart disease and stroke, and approximately one in three Americans have high blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, learn to monitor your blood pressure at home, and work with your doctor to lower it.
9) Monitor your health. Get regular medical checkups and screenings, take your medications and stay on top of any chronic conditions, such as diabetes
10) Manage your stress. Stress can increase your risk of heart disease and a number of other health issues. If you’re stressed, try the Mayo Clinic’s “Relaxation techniques.”
Making major lifestyle changes is challenging, but the rewards are well worth it. Take one step at a time toward a healthier lifestyle for your heart and the rest of your body.
American Heart Association – Heart.org
Heart-Healthy Recipes – MayoClinic.com