Hearts are often associated with romance during this time of year, but how much thought have you given your physical heart lately? February may host the international day of love, but it is also Heart Health Month, making now the perfect time to reflect on hearts of all kinds.
According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the primary killer of both men and women in most developed countries. While this fact may be alarming, the good news is that cardiovascular disease is almost entirely preventable, and in some cases, even reversible!
Simply by making a few essential tweaks to your lifestyle, you can regain control over your health to protect your vital organ.
It is important to understand the areas that determine your heart health. Knowing where you fall in each of these categories speaks volumes about your heart health and can help you determine whether you need to make certain changes.
Know your numbers: Monitoring your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar is the first step in determining your risk factor for heart disease, and you should be screened for these three things annually. While some people will do just about anything before going to the doctor (all the household chores, anyone) a quick and painless test could end up saving your life.
Weight: Carrying around extra weight puts you at risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes—all of which place unnecessary strain on your heart. If your BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9 you’re considered to be a healthy weight.
Smoking: Inhaling nicotine constricts arteries and elevates blood pressure, making your heart pump harder than necessary. However, after just one year of quitting, you slash your heart disease risk by half and continue to erase your risk the longer you remain smoke-free.
Diet: So long, junk food! Eating foods that are low in saturated fat and high in nutrition will keep your blood clean and free of artery-clogging cholesterol that restricts blood flow and leads to heart attacks and strokes. While it’s ok to indulge occasionally, an overall healthy diet is critical to being in good heart health.
Exercise: Make it a goal to move for at least 30 minutes on most days, even if it’s just walking! Doing so will keep your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and stress levels down—all factors that contribute to heart disease. We’d say those are 30 minutes pretty well spent!
Understanding the risk factors of cardiovascular disease and how to best protect your heart health will help you remain healthy so you can celebrate your loved ones for years to come.