The American Heart Association has declared February Heart Month in order to raise awareness about heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Often, it can be prevented with lifestyle changes. Here are some ways that you can improve your heart health:
1. Make an appointment to have your numbers checked: Your heart rate, blood pressure, and cholesterol numbers can give you and your doctor an indication of your overall heart health. If you and your doctor decide that medication is required to manage your high blood pressure or cholesterol, make sure to take it regularly as prescribed. With improvements in diet and increased exercise, you may be able to decrease the use of some medications.
2. Make small changes in your diet. Decreasing sugar, and using spices instead of salt can have a big impact in the long run. Increasing your fruits and vegetables will also improve your heart health.
3. Increase your exercise. Research has shown that 30 minutes of moderate exercise (a vigorous walk), 3 days a week can help lower your risk for heart disease. If that seems like too much to start, start with 15 minutes and increase it from there.
4. Take steps to stop smoking. Smoking has significant negative effects on your body, especially your heart and cardiovascular system. The sooner you quit, the better. Get help if needed, there are many resources, including over the counter medications and patches.
5. Decrease stress. Mindful breathing and relaxation techniques can help to decrease stress, which has a negative impact on your health. Start with just 2-3 minutes a day, see if you can work up to 10 minutes a day of “quiet time”.
For more resources and tips, visit the American Heart Association's website at www.heart.org