A key to living a longer, healthier life is by caring for your heart. February is American Heart Month, and we want to remind you of some ways that you can better focus on your heart! According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, is the leading cause of death in the world with more than 17 million deaths each year. Take note of these 10 tips to maintain your healthy heart!
1. Sleep for at least 7 hours – By sleeping between 7 and 8 hours a night, you could reduce the amount of calcium in your arteries, which is an early sign of heart disease. Ensure that you sleep soundly and stick to a routine.
2. Pay attention to your blood pressure – Getting your blood pressure checked regularly is essential. If pressure is too high, the force can damage artery walls and create scar tissue, which makes it difficult for blood and oxygen to get to and from the heart. Get your blood pressure checked every 3-5 years starting at age 18. Once you turn 40, or if you do have high blood pressure, be sure to check it yearly.
3. Cut down on certain fats – Saturated fats are found in meat and full-fat dairy products and can increase your “bad” cholesterol, raising risk for heart disease. Trans fats should be completely eliminated, as they not only increase your “bad” cholesterol but lowers your “good” cholesterol. Stay on top of your cholesterol by getting it checked at least every five years.
4. Watch out for diabetes – This condition, in which your body has difficulty producing or responding to insulin, can raise blood sugar levels, damaging your arteries and making heart disease more likely. If you are over the age of 45, pregnant, are overweight, or have other risk factors, you should have your blood sugar tested. If you do have diabetes, making healthy lifestyle changes with your doctor should help.
5. Move it! – Sitting for too long every day can lead to heart disease and increased risk of diabetes. By striving to be active for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week with moderate exercise, you can improve your heart health, cholesterol, and weight. In addition, you should try moving at least 20 minutes out of every hour.
6. Ditch the cigarettes – Smoking both real and electronic cigarettes can negatively affect heart health. The action of smoking real cigarettes damages the lining of your arteries, leading to a build up of atheroma, or fatty material, which causes the artery to become narrow. This could cause a heart attack or stroke. While e-cigarettes are effective in helping people quit smoking and lack the harmful chemicals, they do still contain nicotine, which is addictive. Consider getting on a plan to quit smoking once and for all.
7. Do what you love – By stressing less and enjoying life more, you can actually improve your heart health! Stress can cause people to have high blood pressure, smoke, eat more, become sedentary, and sleep less. By having a happy, healthy lifestyle, you can reduce stress. Exercising, practicing yoga, having a healthy diet, and relaxing more can all help improve your heart!
American Hearth Month was created to remind you to love your heart! This February, try to start using a few, if not all, of the tips above. It could be the key to a longer, happier life. See your doctor regularly and get on a plan to improve your heart health. If you are in need of a physician, call UAB Medical West’s Physician Referral line, 996-WEST.