The month of February isn’t just about paper or candy valentine hearts. It’s actually about that beating heart in your chest. For those who didn’t know, February is National Heart Health Month and the perfect time to talk about smart heart habits people should and can start at any age to raise awareness, and increase knowledge of prevention.
Over 8 million adults live with one or more types of cardiovascular disease in the United States. Unfortunately, heart disease takes the life of 1-in-3 women in this country. In order to keep your ticker happy, healthy and beating for love this Valentine’s Day, follow these heart healthy tips from the American Heart Association this month and every month!
1. Understand your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers: Talk to your family doctor about what your recommended weight, blood pressure and cholesterol numbers should be so you can monitor them regularly. Cholesterol levels for adults should be less than 200, and your desired blood pressure should be 120/80. It’s important to note that blood pressure, cholesterol and weight can be hereditary, so talk to your doctor first. Exercising regularly and eating foods low in trans fat and saturated fats, and foods high in fiber can help reduce cholesterol.
2. Exercise: Yes I said exercise, not eggs are sides! It’s time to get the heart pumping with 30 minutes of activity every day. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise a week, mixed with some high intensity workouts. Exercises can be walking, jogging, biking, hiking, swimming, and even dancing! Remember to start small and work up to more intense cardio workouts so you understand how much endurance your body can handle.
3. Eat a healthy diet: I know it’s hard, but try to limit the junk and garbage food and eat a well balanced diet. Heart healthy super foods include nuts, salmon, berries, vegetables like cauliflower and best of all, dark chocolate! These foods can work together to lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation and slow plaque formation and buildup. So eat up your strawberries with dark chocolate this month!
4. Get a good night’s sleep: Sleep is something we all need a little bit more of. Thanks to the stress of jobs as well as the stress of parenting/family life, I have seen many people sacrifice their personal sleep, adding more stress onto the body. Studies show adults should get 7 hours of sleep a night. Set a bedtime routine that is calming and limits your blue light usage from devices right before bed.
5. Take a minute to relax: I know, it’s easier said than done. But chronic stress can increase risk for heart disease and other health problems. In today’s world it is impossible to remove all stress, so try meditating weekly and be mindful of the things that trigger stress and anger so you can monitor them regularly.
Most importantly, be open and honest with your family doctor about your lifestyle habits and how you’re feeling. If you have a history of heart disease in your family, or are experiencing symptoms of heart disease, contact your doctor.
Let’s spread the love and awareness this month and keep everyone’s heart beating a little longer!