February is American Heart Month, a time to start prioritizing your heart health. Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States? Prioritizing self-care and your heart health can help avoid severe illness and disease. Here are proactive steps to protect your heart and get involved in American Heart Month.
Physical activity is a crucial means to maintaining a healthy heart and body. According to the National Heart, Lung, Blood Institute you are nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease if you are inactive. Increasing physical activity can seem daunting, but there are many ways to do so. Going on a daily walk with a neighbor or friend can be a great activity to get in your exercise. Or, attend exercise classes virtually if you are unable to leave your house. Having a fitness partner can also keep you accountable and make exercising a more enjoyable activity. Remember, any physical activity is better than none, so listen to your body. Even if it is only 10-30 minutes a day, some sort of physical activity offers many health benefits in the long-run.
Keeping a balanced, healthy diet is another important part of heart health. A heart-healthy diet consists of low sodium, sugar, and saturated fat. Replace foods rich with high saturated fat with fish, beans, nuts, and lean poultry. Try eating more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains to round out your diet and stick with natural sugars. Looking for inspiration? Here are easy heart-healthy recipes from the American Heart Association: https://recipes.heart.org/en/.
Working toward a healthy heart is much more than your diet; it springs from self-care and relationships as well. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, having close, positive relationships with others can contribute to your heart health. Community building can be an important way to create a happy and wholesome lifestyle. So, gather your loved ones, neighbors, and friends, and make a commitment to prioritize your heart health. This can include exercising together, cooking together, or simply spending time as a group.
Remember to be in the know of your own health numbers. Tracking your well-being, including diet, exercise, cholesterol, and blood pressure is essential in monitoring heart health. Track your exercise in a daily log to ensure you are getting enough physical activity every week. Similarly, keep tabs on what you eat every day and how your body responds to different diets. It directly impacts your energy, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, so know your baseline and periodically check in on each. The NHLBI suggests checking these vitals at least once a year but talk to a doctor to see how often would be best for you and what the benchmarks should be.
Celebrate heart health this month and every month with these lifestyle tips. Spread the word to your friends and loved ones to prioritize their heart health during American Heart Month.