February is American Heart Month. According to the CDC, one in four deaths in the US is from heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US. By making simple changes to your current lifestyle you can reduce the risk of heart disease. Heart health is the focus of the month of February but you can make heart health your focus every day!
Heart Healthy Tips:
The most important thing a tobacco user can do to live a longer and more healthy life it to quit using tobacco. the effects of quitting actually begin immediately. Your heart rate starts to drop down within 20 minutes of quitting!! This also effects your entire family. Secondhand smoke can cause coronary heart disease, stroke, lung cancer as well as numerous health problems in children. The local health department has a program called SOS (Stamp out Smoking) in which participants are given free help to stop smoking. The Arkansas Tobacco Quitline Program has a referral program. You can access this link for more information on the SOS program in our area. SOS
Maintain a healthy weight
The more you weigh the more your heart has to work. The key to maintaining a healthy weight is exercise and eating healthy nutritious meals. You have to balance the number of calories you eat with the number of calories you burn. The easiest way to cut calories is by drinking water instead of high sugar drinks such as soda, sweet tea, or lemonade. Hidden sugars are the downfall of poor eating.
Heart Healthy Diets
A heart healthy diet means loading up on fruits and vegetable, whole grains, high fiber foods, and lean meat. You should try to consume lean meats (skinless chicken and fish) a few times a week. You should limit the saturated fat, trans fat, red meats, sugar, and salt. To reduce the trans fat in your diet, look for items that do not have hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Being more active is a very important part of preventing heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends that you get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week for your overall heart health. Aerobic exercises that create a substantial benefit to your heart health include (but not limited to) walking, swimming, biking, and jogging. Remember to stretch before you exercise and this will add another healthy benefit for your overall heart health. Stretching and strength exercises increase your stamina as well as flexibility. There are ways to exercise that do not include going to the gym. Here is a list of non-gym exercises and the calories they burn in one hour:
Playing pool: 148-216
Mowing the lawn: 325-474
As always, consult your physician before beginning any nutritional or exercise programs.
Manage your stress level
Chronic stress can increase your blood pressure and damage the walls of the arteries. Many people under stress will reach for alcohol, food or tobacco to “calm” themselves…this is not a healthy solution to the problem of stress. Deep breathing exercises and yoga are helpful to decrease stress in your life. Your goal should be to maintain a balance in your life and reduce your stress. Calming breaths will increase the oxygen and help decrease the build up of stress. Meditation or yoga not only provides a release of stress in the muscles and offers flexibility it also helps to calm and relax you. This link will give you more insight to help you understand the heart healthy benefits of yoga. 38 ways yoga can help
Heart disease is preventable but you need to know the risks and warning signs before it is too late. High blood pressure and high LDL (bad) cholesterol rob your body of oxygen and can cause heart attack, stroke, or both. Both heart attacks or strokes can cause damage even if you don’t have any symptoms, that is why it is so important to have your blood pressure and cholesterol checked on a regular basis. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors. Early detection is the key to living a healthy life.