Did you know that February is American Heart Month? (And not the Valentine’s Day type of hearts?) No? Well, did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States? Did you also know that you can reduce your risk of heart disease by up to 82% by making easy healthy lifestyle choices? In 1963, the United States declared February as American Heart Month in an effort to call attention to the growing problem. Unfortunately, heart disease still flies under the radar. It’s commonly thought of as an elderly disease, when in fact, 1 in 3 women are affected. Lucky for us, preventing heart disease is simple! A healthy diet and lifestyle are the best weapons we have at fighting this killer problem and achieving heart health.
Cut Cholesterol- High cholesterol can cause a buildup in the inner arteries, which can cause blood clots, reduce blood flow and lead to heart attacks and strokes. Check Nutrition Facts labels to keep track of the cholesterol in your food and consume no more than 300 mg daily.
Break a Sweat- Regular exercise keeps your heart fit and can help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight (another important step in preventing heart disease). Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day to prevent heart disease.
Manage your Weight- Being overweight increases your risk of developing high blood pressure, high blood triglycerides (fats) and heart disease. Maintaining or achieving a healthy weight keeps your body in check and reduces the stress on your heart. Check out a BMI scale to get a general idea of your targeted weight. (Beware that BMI scales are not always accurate depending on body type and build. Consulate a doctor if you have questions)
Say Bye-Bye to (Excess) Booze- We have all heard that a glass of red wine contains antioxidants that may help reduce the risk of heart disease. However, (sadly) the theory that one glass is good, so three is better does not exactly hold true. Excessive alcohol intake can increase blood pressure and lead to heart failure and stroke, as well as contribute to weight gain.
Quit Smoking- Tobacco contains a handful of chemicals that damage your heart, decrease your supply of oxygen and cause blood vessels to constrict. Quitting smoking drastically improves heart health and decrease the risk of heart disease within the first year.
De-Stress- For most of us, stress is inevitable. However, it is the way we handle the stress that can affect our heart health. Often times, being overwhelmed with stress can lead to poor lifestyle choices, such as drinking, smoking and lack of physical activity. Instead, reach for healthier stress management tools, such as a good punching bag, a treadmill or a yoga class. If that doesn’t work, see a health care physician for other ways to cope.