With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, you’re bound to see hearts everywhere: jewelry and T-shirts, candies and cookies, balloons and greeting cards. Now, what if you gave the same attention to your heart? Each February, we celebrate American Heart Month with that goal in mind. The National Institute of Health (NIH) and specifically the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) hope to motivate Americans to adopt healthy lifestyles in order to prevent heart disease. It’s all the more important this year, as people with poor cardiovascular health are at an increased risk of severe symptoms from COVID-19.
So what does heart-healthy living mean? It includes understanding your risk, making smart choices and taking steps to reduce your chances of getting heart disease, including coronary heart disease (the most common type). Keep reading for tips to help you improve your heart health as well as ways to get involved with the #OurHearts Movement.
How to Practice Heart-Healthy Living
Did you know heart disease is a leading cause of death for Americans? Did you also know that there’s a lot you can do to protect your heart and stay healthy? Here are three ways that you can practice heart-healthy living:
- Schedule your yearly physical: When it comes to heart health, it’s important to know your numbers, specifically your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. A good first step is seeing your doctor for your annual exam. During this appointment, your physician can check these numbers and help you implement a plan to get them both within a healthy range.
- Get moving: Regular physical activity is so good for you! It can help you lose excess weight; control many heart disease risk factors, such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels; lower your stress levels and improve your mental health; and lower your risk for other conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, and depression. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, 5 days a week. It can be as simple as committing to a daily walking schedule with a friend!
- Start a heart-healthy eating plan: Improving your nutrition can have a major impact — one that goes beyond the scale. To boost your heart health, you should fill your plate with vegetables (specifically leafy greens), fruits, protein-rich foods (like fish, lean meats, eggs, and nuts), whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy. It’s also important to limit sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and alcohol. When it comes to portion sizes, you should talk to your doctor about the right amount of calories for your body, which will vary based on your sex, age, and physical activity level.
The #OurHearts Movement
It has long been shown that support from friends and family helps us achieve our goals. Reach out to your loved ones and include them in your efforts to take care of your heart. Maybe you’ll even motivate them to make some positive changes too!
Whether you’re separated by miles, social distancing mandates, or lockdown restrictions, you can join the #OurHearts Movement and follow their 7 Days of Self-Care. For instance, on #SelfcareSunday, you can create a weekly checklist of ways you’ll practice self-care. On #MindfulMonday, participants are encouraged to check their blood pressure and become familiar with other statistics related to their heart health. On #TastyTuesday, cook a new, heart-healthy recipe. You can even have a virtual dinner club, sharing the ingredient list and recipe with a group of friends or family ahead of time and eating together via FaceTime or Zoom.
With just a few small changes, you’ll be looking and feeling your best in no time!
Reach out to Dr. Asha Tota-Maharaj, MD at Platinum Primary Care, and schedule an appointment today!