As you may or may not know, February is Heart Health Month. While I have been aware of heart disease and prevention in the last few years since heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States, it wasn’t until recently that the importance really hit home for me. Last fall, my dad had a heart attack and ended up with quadruple bypass surgery. Now that I know that heart disease is in my family, I am even more focused on maintaining a heart healthy lifestyle for my family and myself. While the amount of research and information on the topic is vast, there are some simple changes you can make right now to lower your risks for heart disease.
1. Get Moving
The American Heart Association recommends that you get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Regular exercise can decrease your stress levels while lowering your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Whether it means walking your dog or training for a 5K working up a sweat can keep your ticker strong.
2. Find Some Zen
Elevated stress levels are often found among patients with heart disease. Find what works for you to be able to lower the stressors in your life. Yoga helps get you moving while helping you find peace and balance. Meditating and journaling are other great options. Find some acceptance in knowing what things you can control and what you can’t.
3. Eat Clean(er)
Loading up your plate with heart healthy foods will reap benefits for you. Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health and clean eating can help you achieve that. Choose whole grains, lean meats, and healthy fats while avoiding foods high in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol.
4. Moderate Alcohol
Many studies have shown that drinking in moderation, particularly antioxidant rich red wine, can promote heart health. Moderate drinking means 1 drink a day. Drinking in excess of that can cause more harm than good and lead to an increase in blood triglyceride levels which can result in high blood pressure, heart failure and obesity.
5. Check in with Your Doctor(s)
Scheduling annual check ups with your primary care practitioner is a good way to be proactive about your heart health. Have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked. Talk to them about any family history of heart disease. While you’re at it, schedule a dental checkup. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, people with periodontal disease are two times more likely to have heart disease.
How do you care for your heart beyond Heart Month? Enjoy one of these heart-shaped recipes to really get in the mood for Heart Health Month.