February is National Heart Health Month and it’s the perfect time to reevaluate your habits and make sure you’re living a heart-smart life. Your heart deserves the best care and that starts with taking steps to improve your heart health. Here are 10 things you can do to live a healthier, happier life for your heart.
1. Exercise regularly
It doesn’t have to be strenuous – just 30 minutes of physical activity each day can make a big difference. Consider taking a 30-minute walk after dinner, joining a yoga class or spending 30 minutes a day dancing it out to your favorite playlist.
2. Eat heart-healthy foods
Eating heart-healthy foods is an easy way to take small steps toward a healthy lifestyle. Avoid processed foods that may be high in sodium, calories, and fat. Heart-healthy foods include:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Lean proteins, such as chicken, turkey, fish, and eggs
- Beans and legumes
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, or nuts.
3. Limit your salt intake
It is recommended to consume no more than 2000 milligrams of sodium a day. Too much salt can cause your body to retain fluid, which can raise blood pressure and increase your risk for heart disease and stroke.
Salt is often found in surprising places. Foods such as canned soups, crackers, bagels, and frozen meals may contain high amounts of salt.
4. Maintain a healthy weight for your heart
Being at a healthy weight can lower your risk for heart disease. By adding more fruit and veggies to your diet, cutting out processed foods, exercising each day, and making sure to get plenty of sleep each night you will be on your way to maintaining or even losing weight.
5. Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke
Smoking can damage the heart by narrowing blood vessels and reducing oxygen flow to the heart muscle. Did you know that when you quit smoking, heart attack risk decreases rapidly?
6. Get regular check-ups
Regular visits with your healthcare provider are essential to heart health. During these appointments, you can talk to your doctor about any heart problems or concerns you have and also learn more about heart disease prevention.
7. Manage stress
Manage your stress levels through yoga, meditation, or other relaxation techniques. If you think you can’t meditate consider sitting on your front porch and just closing your eyes to listen to the sounds of nature. This is an easy way to reduce stress and enjoy your afternoon at the same time. Stress can raise your heart rate and blood pressure, so it’s important to find ways to reduce it.
8. Get enough sleep
Sleep is easily overlooked and for some, it’s a matter of pride that we can run on less sleep. But sleep deprivation increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Did you know when we sleep our bodies are repairing heart tissue and improving heart health? Aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
9. Drink in moderation
Too much alcohol can increase the risk of heart disease, heart failure, and high blood pressure. The guidelines recommend no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for
10. Finally, stay informed
Stay informed about heart health in general and about your heart health in particular. Knowing your numbers such as blood pressure and resting heart rate is a great start. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your doctor.
Living heart-smart isn’t difficult – just keep these tips in mind and make healthier choices for your heart. February is National Heart Health Month – let’s take this opportunity to live a healthier life!
By following these heart-healthy guidelines, you can decrease your risk of heart disease and enjoy a happier, healthier life. Take action today to make heart health a priority! Have a heart-healthy day!