With February being Heart Health Month, why not start the month off right by taking an active approach to keeping your heart healthy? Many people in the United States today face medical issues involving their heart, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart attacks. Many of these issues could have been prevented had they taken better care of themselves sooner. By starting now, you can help ensure that you reap the benefits! Below are the top nine things you can do to keep you and your heart healthy:
- Watch your diet: avoid foods that are high in saturated and trans-fats. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean poultry and meats are essential to a heart-healthy diet.
- Reduce sodium in your diet: I recommend less than 2 grams of salt per day. Fast food, canned foods, and take-out food tend to all be very high in salt.
- Quit smoking.
- Be active: engage in at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity most days of the week.
- Minimize stress: this can be done by exercising, meditating, or being more organized. The key point here is that stress can increase blood pressure, putting strain on your heart.
- Limit alcohol intake: Keep alcohol intake at <2 drinks per male or <1 drink per female on a daily basis. A drink is defined as a 12 ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard alcohol.
- Maintain a healthy weight: A healthy BMI is less than 25. You should also monitor your waist circumference (>35 inches in women and >40 inches in men is considered high).
- If you’re on medications for your heart, be sure to take them as prescribed.
- See a doctor at least yearly for preventative health care to make sure you’re doing everything you can to stay healthy.
Regardless of what you do, some people are more prone to developing heart disease (yes, genetics and our intrinsic make-up do play a part). This is another reason why it’s so important to establish care early with a primary care physician to help you monitor for signs or symptoms of heart disease.
By adhering to these key points, you’re helping to ensure that you stay as healthy as possible. Don’t forget: the greatest advocate for your body is you!