February is Healthy Heart Month!
By maintaining a healthy heart, you lower your risks of heart disease and stroke, and improve your quality of life. You can keep your heart healthy by making a few small changes that can have a big impact on your overall health.
Choose a Healthy Diet
Making smart food choices can help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. The good news is, eating right doesn’t have to be hard or require a special diet. Be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and try to choose whole wheat over white when selecting grains. Avoid excessive amounts of saturated fats and try to gets your fats from nuts and fish instead.
Physical activity improves your circulation because the heart is pumping more blood through your heart faster than normal. If you don’t currently lead an active lifestyle, start with something simple, like going for a walk. Walking for as few as 30 minutes a day provides heart health benefits and is one of the most effective forms of exercise to achieve heart health. They key is to start moving and stay active!
Smokers have a higher risk of developing many chronic disorders, including atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty substances in the arteries, which can lead to coronary heart disease and stroke. According to the American Heart Association, in as little as two weeks after you quit smoking your circulation begins to improve.
Monitor Your Blood Pressure
Blood pressure readings fall into four general categories, ranging from normal to stage 2 high blood pressure (hypertension). It is important to regularly monitor your blood pressure so that you do not develop high blood pressure. If you notice that your blood pressure readings are too high, it is important to go to your healthcare provider sooner rather than later to avoid any complications or issues that may arise. If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may suggest a healthy lifestyle along with medication to get it under control.
Reduce Salt and Sugar Intake
If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may suggest a low sodium diet. In some people, sodium can increase blood pressure because it holds excess fluid in the body.
Over time, high levels of blood sugar can damage your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves. Added sugars have long been cited for contributing to obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons or 100 calories a day of sugar for most women and no more than nine teaspoons or 150 calories a day for most men.
Watch Your Cholesterol
As your blood cholesterol rises, so does your risk of coronary heart disease. If you have other risk factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure or diabetes, this risk increases even further. The American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee recommends eating between 25 and 35 percent of your total daily calories as fats from foods like fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. They also suggest limiting the amount of saturated fats you eat to less than seven percent of your total daily calories. The majority of fats you eat should be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.
Source: American Heart Association