American Heart Month
February is associated with love, flowers, chocolate, cupid, and hearts because the 14th is Valentine’s Day. However, February is also American Heart Month sponsored by the American Heart Association (AHA). This campaign is an attempt to motivate American’s to raise awareness about heart health and adopt healthy lifestyles. Heart disease is the primary cause of death for Americans with 2,200 people dying every day. Furthermore, 6.5 million people are living with heart failure and 103 million have high blood pressure. Genetics are a 20% factor in heart disease but taking preventative measures are key to a healthy heart.
Here are Some Tips to Improve Heart Health for American Heart Month
Get Quality Sleep and Reduce Stress
Sleep plays a critical part in good mental health, physical health, and overall well-being. It restores the body, decreases stress, and increases overall happiness. Stress contributes to high blood pressure along with other heart risks. A lack of quality sleep and stress contribute to an increase in the risk of having high blood pressure, heart disease, and other health conditions. Most adults require 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night to reduce stress. Meditation, relaxation therapy, and physically active helps to cope with stress and a better night’s sleep.
Know Your Numbers
Two of the main risk factors for heart disease are blood cholesterol and high blood pressure. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute suggests that everyone age 3 or older should have their blood pressure checked by a healthcare provider at least once a year. Your doctor will use a blood pressure test to see whether you have consistently high blood pressure readings. If so, they will provide lifestyle improvement recommendations and possibly medication.
Talk with Your Doctor
Discuss health concerns with your doctor. Know your family’s medical history and risk for heart disease. Doctors are an important partner in aiding you with setting and reaching goals for heart health.
Smoking is one of the most harmful things you can do to your heart and overall health. Smoking puts stress on your heart and raises blood pressure. Over time, the heart weakens because of the stress which in turn makes it harder to pump blood to other parts of your body. The sooner you quit, the faster your body can start to heal from the damage.
There is an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other health issues for people who are overweight. Your doctor can help you determine an appropriate body mass index (BMI) and healthy weight based on multiple factors such as age and height.
Heart Healthy Food
A heart healthy diet refers to eating certain foods, such as fruits and vegetables, while limiting food high in saturated and trans fats and added sugars. Health experts recommend the DASH eating plan which is a scientifically proven approach to a heart healthy diet that lowers blood pressure in addition to other health benefits.
Consuming too much alcohol increases your risk of heart disease. Drinking in moderation is fine but females should not have more than 1 alcoholic beverage a day and males should not have more than 2 a day.
Physical activity can help prevent cardiovascular disease along with improve overall mental and physical health. Out of the four categories of physical activity (aerobic, bone-strengthening, muscle-strengthening, and stretching) aerobic activity is the most beneficial to heart and lung health. Adults need at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week.