February is American Heart Month

American Heart Month

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. American Hearth Month was created to not only spread awareness of this, but also to help you know ways of preventing it! So, here are the top 8 ways of doing that:

1. Knowing Your Risk
It is important to know how at risk you are for developing heart disease based on not only family history, but also with lifestyle choices that can increase your risk. Risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, weight status, high cholesterol, inactivity, and even your age, if you are 55 or older for women, or 45 or older for men. Although some things can’t be changed such as your genetics, sex, or age, you can change your lifestyle habits to lower the overall risk.

2. Stay in Check
Don’t forget to have annual doctor appointments to have your blood pressure and blood cholesterol checked! High blood pressure (>140/90) and high cholesterol levels increase your risk by increasing plaque build-up on your arteries and possibly damaging your heart overtime.

3. Food for the Heart
Don’t forget to align your food with your goals! Choose a heart-healthy diet which includes fruits, vegetables, and grains and decrease your saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and sodium. If you are already experiencing high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels, your doctor may recommend the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which is similar to what is listed above, just more specific on servings.

4. Healthy Weight
Keeping a healthy weight can help lower your risk of heart disease. Talk to your doctor about what a healthy weight looks like for you! Keep in mind most people use their BMI to determine this, however for kids we look at their growth chart instead since they are still growing!

5. Stress Less
Stress can be a major trigger for high blood pressure, heart risk factors, and even a heart attack in some cases. Make sure you have a coping mechanism to deal with stress such as talking to someone, breathing exercises, mediation, or physical activity.

6. Get That Heart Beating!
As mentioned previously, physical activity is a great way to reduce stress. Not only that, it also can help improve your heart health by helping maintain or lower your weight, manage high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and lower your risk for other chronic conditions! Don’t forget to talk to your doctor about what exercises are right for you!

7. Smoking, Vaping, & Other Tobacco Products
Smoking is another well-known increased risk for heart disease as well as lung disease. This also includes vaping, e-cigarettes, and other forms of smoking. Set a date to quit, stay active and busy, avoid things that can trigger the need to smoke. Talk to your doctor about joining a program to help you quit smoking.

8. Give Your Heart a Rest
Don’t forget to get the appropriate amount of sleep. Adults are recommended to have 7-9 hours of sleep every night, and the needs increase as you look at younger teens and kids. Sleeping is the prime time for your body to fix anything that needs to be repaired, and it helps with your hunger hormones and immune system. Need help sleeping? Try getting physical activity during the day, maintain the schedule of when you go to bed and wake up, relax before bed, unplug from your phone or TV an hour before bed, and make sure not to eat a big meal or exercise an hour or so before bed.

Source: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/heart-healthy-living