February is known as heart health month, a whole month geared toward educating people and spreading awareness about heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women, which makes it so important that people are properly educated on how to take control of their health and reduce their risk!
Even though February is coming to an end, it doesn’t mean we forget about heart health. Adopting and maintaining heart healthy habits is something that should be done all year round! It’s important to know what puts you at risk for heart disease, so you can focus on what can be done to reduce your risk.
Risks for heart disease:
High blood pressure
Excessive alcohol use
Lack of physical activity
How many of the risk factors listed above do you have? Let’s look at how you can reduce those risks!
High blood pressure- excess sodium in diets can all lead to high blood pressure. Rather than using salt to add flavor to your foods, consider using a variety of spices. When buying soups or processed foods, look for “low sodium” labels. Rinse canned foods such as beans, vegetables, etc. to reduce sodium intake, since they sit in sodium dense liquid.
High cholesterol- Unhealthy diets and sedentary lifestyles are two factors contributing to high cholesterol. Fatty deposits build up in arteries, making them narrow, and more difficult for blood to flow through the body and to the heart. Cut out fast food, fried, sugary, and heavily processed foods. Add in more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and practice portion control. Along with healthy diet, get active! Join a gym, group fitness class, get a personal trainer, or workout at home! Aim to get in 150 minutes of physical activity each week.
Smoking- Smoking doesn’t only increase your risk for heart disease, it also increases your risk for high blood pressure, and high cholesterol as it causes damage to the blood vessels. If you smoke, work on trying to quit, your body will thank you!
Obesity- More than 1 in 3 Americans are obese, the extra weight places more stress on not only the joints in the body, but the heart as well. Healthy diet and regular exercise are key to losing excess weight.
Diabetes- Diabetes can cause damage to blood vessels when sugar builds up in the blood. It’s important if you have diabetes to make sure it’s well managed.
Excessive alcohol use- Excessive alcohol use long- term can weaken the heart muscle and decrease its ability to pump blood. If you’re going to consume alcohol, only do so in moderation.