In honor of American Heart Month, I want to share some tips for living a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Fortunately, you can do a lot to protect your heart. It’s important to understand your risks, make healthy choices to improve your wellbeing, and take preventive measures to reduce your chances of getting heart disease.
To start, you need to know your risk factors and how to lower them. Risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Overweight or obese
- Diagnosed with pre-diabetes or diabetes
- Unhealthy eating habits
- Do not regularly exercise
- Family history of early heart disease, specially if male relatives were diagnosed before age 55 and female relatives were diagnosed before age 65
- History of preeclampsia during pregnancy
- Age 45 or older for men and 55 or older for women
Each risk factor increases your chance of developing heart disease, so the more factors you have, the higher your overall risk. Of course, some factors — like gender, age, and family history — cannot be changed. Others, though, can be modified with lifestyle choices. Factors like high blood pressure or cholesterol don’t always have obvious symptoms, so it’s imperative to schedule an appointment with your primary care provider for an annual check-up and risk assessment.
During this appointment, you can ask questions about living a heart-healthy lifestyle, including:
- What is my risk of developing heart disease?
- What is my blood pressure? Do I need to make any changes to modify it?
- What are my cholesterol numbers? Do I need to make any changes to modify them?
- Do I need to lose weight for heart health reasons?
- What is my blood sugar level? Am I at risk for developing diabetes?
- If you’re a smoker: How can we work together to help me quit smoking?
- How much should I exercise for my heart health?
- Can you help me develop a heart-healthy eating plan?
- How do I know if I’m having a heart attack?
- When should I return for my next check-up?
Another way to lower your risk of heart disease is with daily acts of self-care.
In fact, research shows that self-care helps to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range and reduce your risk of both heart disease and stroke. Here are six examples of self-care that improve your overall health:
- Exercise daily – even a brisk, 30-minute walk can make a difference!
- Cook meals that are low in sodium and unhealthy fats.
- Take prescribed medications, including daily vitamins.
- Book and keep your medical appointments!
- Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
- Manage your stress. A meditation practice, yoga, a warm bath, or quiet time are all helpful!
If you have any other questions about your risk of heart disease or living a heart-healthy lifestyle, reach out today!