7 Heart Health Tips You Can get Started on Today
“Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women. Protect yourself with these heart health tips.”
Throughout the month of February, health organizations, schools and local communities will celebrate American Heart Month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women so it seems fitting that a nationwide heart health movement takes place during the same month as Valentine’s Day. Despite being the No. 1 killer across the nation, heart disease is largely preventable. Follow these seven heart health tips and live heart healthy.
7 Heart Health Tips From Mayo Clinic
According to the Mayo Clinic, although you lack the power to change some risk factors — such as family history, sex or age — there are some key heart disease prevention steps you can take to reduce your risk. The seven heart disease prevention tips below will put you (and your heart!) on a path to success. While the majority of the tips are well known and widely practiced, many people find it difficult to incorporate all of them into their daily lives.
- If you practice all seven, CONGRATULATIONS! You’re a Heart Heath Superstar.
- If you practice five out of seven, WELL DONE! You’re taking positive steps to increase your heart health.
- If you practice three or less out of seven, CHALLENGE YOURSELF. Make 2017 the year you incorporate at least one extra heart health measure into your life.
#1. Don't Smoke or Use Tobacco
When it comes to heart disease prevention, no amount of smoking is safe. Smoking or using tobacco of any kind is one of the most significant risks that lead to heart disease.
The good news is that your risk of heart disease begins to lower soon after quitting. No matter how long or how much you smoked, you'll start reaping rewards as soon as you quit. After only a year, your risk of coronary heart disease significantly reduces. And, after 15 years that risk drops to almost that of a nonsmoker.
#2. Exercise for at least 30 minutes
You should do moderate exercise, such as walking at a brisk pace, for about 30 minutes on most days of the week. That can help you reach the Department of Health and Human Services recommendations of:
- 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity,
- 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity,
- or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.
For even more health benefits, aim for 300 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity every week. In addition, aim to do strength training exercises two or more days a week.
You don't have to exercise strenuously to achieve benefits. Activities such as gardening, housekeeping, taking the stairs and walking the dog all count toward your total. But, you will see bigger benefits by increasing the intensity, duration and frequency of your workouts.
#3. Eat a heart-healthy diet
Eating a healthy diet can reduce your risk of heart disease. Adherence to the tips below will set you on a path to a healthier diet. In the month ahead, challenge yourself to check as many of the boxes below as possible. Setting small, achievable goals will make the challenge much more fun and rewarding.
❒ Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains
❒ Aim to eat beans, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, lean meats, and fish as part of a healthy diet.
❒ Avoid too much salt and sugars in your diet.
❒ Limit certain fats. Specifically, try to limit or avoid saturated fat and trans fat. If the nutrition label has the term "partially hydrogenated" or "hydrogenated," it means that product contains trans fat.
❒ Eat healthy fats from plant-based sources — such as avocado, nuts, olives and olive oil. Doing so will help your heart by lowering the bad type of cholesterol.
❒ Try to incorporate 5-10 servings a day of fruits and vegetables
❒ Try to eat 2+ servings a week of certain fish, such as salmon and tuna
Want to learn more about how to eat heart healthy? We've compiled a list of the best heart healthy foods, our favorite heart healthy recipes and detailed 7-day meal plans to get you started.
#4. Maintain a healthy weight
Excess weight can lead to conditions that increase your chances of heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
One way to see if your weight is healthy is to calculate your body mass index (BMI). Here’s a helpful BMI calculator to determine your range.
#5. Get enough quality sleep
Did you know that sleep deprivation could harm your health? People who don't get enough sleep have a higher risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes and depression.
Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night so, making sleep a priority in your life is essential.
#6. Manage stress
As most people know all too well – stress is stressful. There are unhealthy ways to cope with stress (such as overeating, drinking or smoking) and healthy ways to manage stress (such as physical activity, relaxation exercises or meditation). It’s entirely up to you to choose your ‘stress coping’ path.
#7. Get regular health screenings
Regular screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol levels and diabetes can tell you whether you need to take action.
Blood pressure: Between the ages of 18-39 you should have a blood test performed once every two years to screen for high blood pressure. At the age of 40 and above, or if you have high risk of high blood pressure, you should request a blood pressure reading every year.
Cholesterol levels: Adults should have their cholesterol measured at least once every five years.
Diabetes screening: If your weight is normal and you don't have other risk factors for Type 2 diabetes, the American Diabetes Association recommends starting screening at age 45 and then retesting every three years.
How to achieve your heart health goals
By setting small, achievable goals and tracking those goals, you can make a big and lasting difference in your health. Getting started is always the most difficult part of any lifestyle change.
- Set goals that matter to you and are realistic
- Set short-term goals (example: what you can do this week, this month)
- Set long-term goals (example: what you want to have accomplished by next year)
- Write down your goals, review them with your healthcare professional and make changes to them over time.
There are many perks to being heart healthy. Beyond the obvious – having a healthy heart – most people would agree that spending more quality time with family, loved ones and building healthy memories are even more of an incentive. No matter which heart-healthy measures you choose to include in your action plan, you will be on a healthier path overall. Here’s wishing you the healthiest of hearts during American Heart Month – and far, far beyond.