5 Tips for Heart Health
February is hearth health month
February is heart health month, which makes it a perfect time to increase awareness about heart disease, and what you can do to prevent it.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. The most common form of heart disease, Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is the build-up of plaque in the arteries, causing a narrowing or full-blockage of the arteries.
Narrowing of the arteries can cause angina, or a tightness and discomfort in the chest. Because the arteries are narrowed the heart isn’t getting enough blood and has to work harder.
Over time this weakens the heart and can cause heart failure, or an irregular heartbeat, an arrhythmia.
Heart disease risk factors
Risk factors for heart disease include:
- High blood pressure
- Elevated blood lipids
- High cholesterol
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Unhealthy eating
The good news is that there are a lot of small actions you can take to reduce your risk for developing heart disease, for having a heart attack, and/or to prevent the disease from worsening.
It may seem daunting to tackle all of these risk factors, but taking small actionable steps can lead to major gains.
5 tips for better heart health
Choose one or two of these ideas to get started:
Visit your doctor
Visit your doctor to have your blood pressure and blood lipids (like cholesterol) tested – if needed, discuss diet and medication options.
If you smoke, reduce and then quit smoking.
Check out your weight
Find out your BMI. If you need to lose weight, consider a comprehensive lifestyle change with a combination of diet, physical activity, and behavior therapy.
Increase your physical activity
Aim to get 2 ½ hours of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity each week. Start small, even 10 minutes at a time can make a difference and incorporate more movement throughout your day. Some choices are:
- Go for morning and/or evening walks.
- Park farther away.
- Take the stairs.
- Get up and stretch for a few minutes for every hour you sit.
- Drink lots of water so you get up regularly for refills and to use the restroom.
- Try adding in just a few minutes of exercise that includes strength training before you shower.
- Stand or walk whenever you take a phone call.
- Suggest walking meetings at work.
Consider following a heart healthy diet
- Add an extra serving of vegetables to your day
- Take fruit with you for a snack when you’re at work, school or running errands
- Start your day with whole grains – if you prefer cereal in the morning, look for options that have less than 10 g sugar, and at least 5 g of protein and 5 g of fiber.
- Eat more fish and limit how much red meat you eat.
- Slowly decrease your sugar intake…if you add sugar to your coffee, gradually decrease the amount you add in, you’ll barely notice the change if it’s done gradually.
- Reduce sodium; choose low-sodium options so you can control your salt intake.
- Explore other seasonings, like fresh lemon juice, or herbs and spices to add flavor without sodium.
- Choose non-fat or low fat (1%) dairy products to help reduce the amount of saturated fat you eat.
Reduce your risk for heart disease.
These are just a few of the ways you can help reduce your risk for heart disease.
Share your favorite ways to get heart healthy on our Facebook page!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015) Coronary Artery Disease (CAD).
Eckel RH, Jakicic JM, Ard JD, et al (2014) 2013 AHA/ACC Guideline on Lifestyle Management to Reduce Cardiovascular Risk. Circulation 129:S76. doi: 10.1161/01.cir.0000437740.48606.d1
Nutrition Intern for Sweet Life Wellness