February is Heart Awareness Month
29 Heart Health Tips – 1 for Every Day!
By Cecelia Bocker
When we think of February, most people probably think about Valentine’s Day, the color red, romance and love. All of these things are represented by a symbol recognized across the globe… a heart. However, not many people realize that in addition to February causing us to think of the traditional image of a heart, it is also Heart Awareness Month. Cardiovascular disease is the #1 killer of American men and women, causing 1 in 3 female deaths and 1 in 4 male deaths every year.
In hopes of raising awareness and eventually prevention, we’ve compiled a list of 29 Heart Health Tips… one for each day of the month.
- Stop smoking/tobacco/vaping – this is one of the most important, but also most controllable cardiovascular disease risk factors.
- Eat more fish – eating foods full of omega-3 fatty acids is one of the best ways to lower your chances of developing heart disease; try to eat fish at least twice a week.
- Laugh more – laughing out loud has proven to not only lower the hormones that cause stress, but it also decreases the inflammation in your arteries and thus puts less strain on your heart.
- Snack on dark chocolate – if you’re craving something sweet during the day, why not choose something that will not only satisfy your sweet tooth but also reduce inflammation and your risk of heart disease, like a square or two of dark chocolate?!
- Skip the elevator – taking the stairs every day is one small thing you can do to increase the amount of exercise your body gets and in turn keep your heart healthy.
- Swap your coffee – instead of having a second or third cup of joe, try subbing in a cup of green tea; green tea has been linked to lower heart attack and angina rates.
- Brush your teeth – the bacteria and plaque on your teeth is not only a cause of gum disease, but studies are now showing a link between this bacteria and heart disease as well.
- Get a full 8 hours – it may seem impossible to get a full 7 or 8 hours of sleep with your schedule, but sleeping is one of the most important factors when it comes to keeping your body healthy; studies show that people who get less than the recommended amount of sleep are twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack.
- Know your numbers – find out from your doctor what your blood sugar/pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride numbers should be, and then find out what you can do to maintain healthy numbers going forward.
- Maintain a healthy weight – excess body fat (specifically belly fat) has been linked to higher blood pressure and unhealthy lipid levels which in turn are major risk factors for your heart, if you need to slim down a bit try eating lower calorie foods, drinking more water and adding exercise into your day.
- Eat breakfast – starting your day with fruit or whole grains not only jump starts your body and gets you ready for the day, but eating a healthy breakfast every morning has also been linked to lowering your risk of heart disease, stroke and heart attacks.
- Snack on nuts – nuts are not only a delicious snack, but they provide many heart health benefits including lowering bad cholesterol, increasing good cholesterol and preventing blood clots.
- Portion control – use a small plate or bowl when you’re eating at home, this helps your mind (and your stomach) to feel full sooner as opposed to eating until you’re stuffed and in turn leading to a healthier diet/weight.
- Small doses of aspirin – taking a small dose of aspirin has been linked to reducing risk of heart disease and heart attacks, especially in people with diabetes and narrow arteries; be sure to check with a doctor before adding aspirin into your daily routine.
- Get moving – we cannot stress the importance of exercise and getting your blood pumping; in addition to quitting smoking, exercising is another major heart disease factor that YOU can control.
- Eat a colorful diet – try to eat one extra fruit or vegetable every day, they all have dietary benefits regardless of color and in turn have heart benefits.
- Manage your stress – whether it’s work, financial struggles or your personal life, we all have stress factors in our life, but finding a way to deal with stress and eventually minimize it is a crucial factor when it comes to lowering blood pressure.
- Use the buddy system – ask your friend, coworker, sibling or child to join you on your heart health journey, so you can celebrate the little successes together and also work through the harder days.
- Go green – maybe you’re not big on fish, but avocado is another great food chock full of healthy fat to add into your diet.
- Don’t be salty – minimizing your salt intake is one of the easiest ways that you can lower your blood pressure.
- Red, red wine – we are not encouraging drinking alcohol regularly, but enjoying an occasional glass of red wine can actually benefit your heart considering red wine contains “resveratrol” (a heart healthy polyphenol).
- Manage diabetes – those who suffer from diabetes are at an elevated risk for heart disease, as well as heart attacks and strokes due to high blood sugar levels associated with diabetes that can block blood flow to heart and brain.
- Go to the doctor – as we get older, we tend to stop going to the doctor for check-ups, but seeing a doctor regularly can lead to catch issues early on and allowing you a better chance at staying healthy and living longer.
- Figure out why you snore – 1 in 5 snorers actually has sleep apnea (a condition that causes your breathing to pause while you’re asleep) and in turn could be at a higher risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and strokes.
- Know the signs – not every person experiences the typical left arm pain when they are having a heart attack; learn the other signs and what to do if you’re experiencing them.
- Ankle-brachial index test – once you get into your later 50s and 60s, ask your doctor about this test to help diagnose PAD (a cardiovascular disease caused by plaque build-up in the arteries in your legs).
- Cut out one sugary drink – eliminating one soda or latte every day not only cuts down on your caffeine level, but in one year it could lead to at least a 10-pound weight loss simply by removing that one drink.
- Take your meds – taking your medicine as prescribed is one of the most important things you can do for your body; whether you’re taking medication to prevent, manage or cure something, always be sure to take them as prescribed; never add something to your medication list without consulting your doctor first, adding something even as simple as aspirin while you’re on medication could have adverse effects.
- Ask questions – being educated about heart disease and your body is one of the best ways to stay healthy, so ask your doctor about the risks and what you can do to stay healthy!
We hope you follow these tips and join us in the fight against heart disease this month! If you think we forgot any important tips that have helped you keep your heart healthy, let us know!
Access Staffing – a hire level of service