February is known as American Heart Month, when we raise awareness about the importance of heart health, talk about disease prevention, and share how to make heart-healthy decisions. As heart disease is the number one killer of Americans, this month is increasingly important to many people across the country.
While there is no safety net against heart disease, there are habits to include in your daily life that improve your chances of avoiding heart disease and heart attacks.
- Exercise often. Aerobic exercise, strength training, and yoga are all great exercises that support heart health. Exercising at least five days each week for about 30 minutes each time will help keep your heart healthy and efficient.
- Eat a balanced diet. There are so many diets out there today that it can be hard to know what’s healthy and the best choice for you. However, you should include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, poultry, and fish in your diet when it comes to heart health. Limiting or avoiding red meat, high-sodium foods, processed foods, and diet soda will also help your heart.
- Monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and heart attacks. Keeping your blood pressure within a healthy range (with a systolic pressure less than 120 and diastolic pressure less than 80) reduces strain on your heart. Exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet will keep your blood pressure in the normal range.
- Get enough sleep. We all know that sleep plays a massive role in your overall well-being, and this includes your heart health. Take a look at the CDC’s recommendations on sleep for each age group.
- Reduce stress. Stress can lead to poor health choices and higher risks for heart disease, especially when handling your stress in ways such as smoking, overeating, and under exercising.
These tips are crucial for so many areas of your life, especially your heart health. It’s important to know that heart disease comes in many different forms like coronary artery disease, ischemic and non-ischemic cardiomyopathies, valvular heart disease, and arrhythmias. Although it doesn’t discriminate against age or gender, women typically suffer more than men from heart issues. For example, women under 50 are twice as likely to die from a heart attack as a man the same age, and they experience much more atypical symptoms, such as fatigue, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, and pain in their arms, neck, shoulder, and back.
Many resources are available to help keep your blood pressure low, educate you on heart-healthy habits, and ways to limit your stress. Small daily steps play a significant role in your overall well-being. Keep these tips in mind year-round as a way to focus on a healthy heart, body, and mind.