February is Heart Disease Awareness Month. About 610,000 Americans die from heart disease each year—that’s 1 in every 4 deaths. High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking are key heart disease risk factors for heart disease. About half of Americans (49%) have at least one of these three risk factors. If you have a medical condition like diabetes or are physically inactive, you can be at a higher risk of heart disease.
What can you do to make your heart healthy?
No Smoking: If you don’t smoke, don’t start. You should avoid secondhand smoke as best as you can. Smoking increases blood pressure, decreases exercise tolerance and increases the tendency for blood to clot. Atherosclerosis is a disease in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up in the arteries. Over time, plaque hardens and narrows your arteries. This limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your organs and other parts of your body.
Healthy Diet: Choosing healthy meal and snack options can help you avoid heart disease. You should eat foods low in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol can help prevent high cholesterol. For example, eating fish, fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods can help your heart stay healthy. Something as simple as changing out white bread to whole wheat bread, using whole wheat pasta instead of regular pasta, and cooking brown rice instead of white rice can make your heart healthier. Limiting salt in your diet also can lower your blood pressure. All these small changes to your diet can lead you to a life without heart disease.
Physical Activity: Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar levels. There are many types of exercise to keep your healthly depending on your physical capability. You can go on a brisk walk or a similar moderate intensity workout. You could break it into 10-minute increments, 3 times a day. If you are physically able to run, 1 hour and 15 minutes would be enough every week for your aerobic workout. It is recommended that you do a muscle-strengthen activities on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).
Limit Alcohol Intake: Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which can raise your blood pressure. Men should have no more than 2 drinks per day, and women only 1. High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems are just a few of the long-term health risks that are associated with drinking.
Before starting any new diet and exercise program, please check with your doctor and clear any exercise and/or diet changes with them before beginning.