It's the first day of Black History Month, and no one is more excited than us! While this is the time for celebration, we wanted to take some time to focus on the heart! Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. It's also a problem for many Americans who live with diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. But what if there was something you could do to manage it? Here are six ways to improve your heart health below!
Learn the risk factors.
One of the first steps to preventing a problem is to know what may cause it.
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Family history of heart disease, especially if you have a parent who has had a heart attack at an early age (before age 55 in men and 65 in women)
- Age--the risk of developing coronary artery disease increases with age; it's most common in people over 65 years old but can occur at any age.
Get on the move!
Getting on the move is one of the best ways to get started on a healthy heart journey. Exercise reduces stress, improves mood and sleep quality and reduces depression--all of which are key factors in heart disease risk.
Exercise also helps control weight by boosting metabolism and increasing muscle mass (which burns more calories). It can lower blood pressure by relaxing constricted blood vessels throughout the body. Regular exercise can help lower cholesterol levels, too!
So, what's the best type of activity? Well...it depends on what works for you! Walking is great for most people because it doesn't require special equipment or training; all you need is some good shoes and a little motivation! You can do this activity outdoors or indoors depending on weather conditions. If possible, try finding some friends or family members who also enjoy getting active together - this makes exercising more fun than doing it alone!
Add these heart healthy foods to your diet!
- Eat less sodium and saturated fats.
- Eat more whole grains, such as brown rice or whole wheat pasta.
- Eat fish at least twice a week (for example, salmon or tuna). If you don't like seafood, try fortified breakfast cereal with omega-3s instead! You can also take fish oil supplements if you don't like the taste of seafood--but make sure they have been tested for mercury levels before taking them regularly (and never give them to children).
- Add nuts and seeds--such as walnuts, almonds and flaxseed --to your diet on a regular basis; they're loaded with heart-protective nutrients such as monounsaturated fats that help control blood cholesterol levels over time by keeping bad cholesterol from oxidizing or clumping together inside arteries where it causes damage over time leading up towards heart attack/stroke risk factors if left untreated long enough before seeking medical attention."
Manage your stress.
Stress is a major contributor to heart disease. If you're feeling overwhelmed, take steps to manage your stress levels and avoid the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Try breathing exercises or meditation and find peaceful activities that help you relax.
Increase your vitamin intake!
You may not know it, but vitamins are a major player in helping to prevent heart disease. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron, which is necessary for healthy red blood cells. Vitamin E has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by reducing cholesterol levels. And vitamin A can decrease plaque formation in arteries, preventing clots from forming inside them and causing an artery-damaging stroke or heart attack!
Be sure to talk with your doctor about a few of these options and how they may improve your heart health!
Lose weight if you need to.
Losing weight can help reduce your risk of heart disease. Your doctor will likely recommend that you start off slow by making slight changes in daily habits, such as eating more fruit and vegetables or walking more often. Losing weight is easily managed through daily exercise and focusing on making lifestyle changes rather than strict dieting--and it's worth remembering that even tiny amounts of weight loss can have a significant impact on reducing the risk factors associated with heart disease!
With the right lifestyle choices, you can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. If you're worried about your heart health or that of someone close to you, it's important to talk with a doctor about what steps can be taken today. Making a change in your life doesn't happen overnight, but by making healthier decisions every day you can start seeing a change for a better life overall!