February is the month for all things heart-related. American Heart Month celebrates both Valentine’s Day and National Wear Red Day and gives us the opportunity to reflect on the choices we make that can affect (arguably) our most important organ. Because heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, and other heart conditions affect millions more, understanding how to take care of your heart is crucial. While certain types of heart disease and defects can’t be prevented, many other types can be kept at bay with lifestyle habits.
Implement these tips today to keep your ticker ticking for years to come.
Plain and simple — smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease significantly. It also increases your blood pressure and the tendency for your blood to clot. The sooner you put down the pack, the better. For more tips on how to quit smoking, go here.
Thirty minutes of light to moderate exercise per day can lower your risk of heart disease. Even if you don’t have a gym membership or are unable to do high-impact exercise like running or rowing, options such as walking, swimming or light weight lifting is enough to do the trick.
Eat a diet low in sodium.
Too much sodium can increase your blood pressure and cause your body to hold onto fluid. And high blood pressure causes heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular issues. The ideal sodium intake for adults is around 1,500 mg. per day, but most adults currently eat around 2,400 to 3,000 mg. per day. Take small steps to lower your daily intake as much as possible, such as making food substitutions where possible (example: fruit as a breakfast side rather than breakfast potatoes).
Maintain a healthy weight.
When you are a healthy weight, your body circulates blood more efficiently, meaning you are less likely to develop diabetes, heart disease and more. Being overweight and carrying too much fat — especially around your waistline — puts you at a higher risk for issues such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which in turn put you at a higher risk for heart attack and stroke. To lose weight safely, count calories and start by lowering your intake by 500 calories per day.
While more research is needed to determine exactly how it contributes, stress is and can be a risk factor for heart problems and heart disease, possibly due to elevated levels of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Activities such as walking, yoga, meditation, therapy and eating healthy are good ways to help cope with or alleviate stress.
Only drink in moderation.
While a glass or two of wine could possibly have health benefits, excessive alcohol consumption does just the opposite. It increases heart rate and blood pressure temporarily, which can lead to an overall increased heart rate over time, as well as a weakened heart muscle and irregular heartbeat, which both contribute to heart attacks.
Am I a Candidate?
Determine if you are at risk for developing or already have symptoms for venous disease.