February is American Heart Month! Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States; in fact, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease. Despite these staggering statistics, maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle and working with your health care provider to manage your heart health can greatly improve your cardiovascular well-being.
Leading a sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk of developing heart disease by 15 percent. Regular exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight, reduce high blood pressure, and stimulate blood circulation. Start with 30 minutes of exercise a day and build up from there. Even if you break your exercise into three 10-minute sessions, you’ll strengthen your heart.
Practicing meditation, exercising, and taking time to relax are easy ways to reduce stress that can have a huge effect on your health. Stress wreaks havoc on your heart and the repetitive strain can lead to cardiovascular disease. A recent study by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute found that people who meditated had almost a 50 percent lower chance of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
It’s common knowledge that smoking is bad for you, but the damage goes far beyond your lungs. Smoking increases your chance of developing heart disease by two to four times, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Essentially, smoking makes your heart work harder by causing plaque to build up in your arteries.
If you need help quitting, talk to your health care provider or a counselor.
High nutrient, low-calorie foods are the best for your heart’s health. Many processed foods, candies, marbled cuts of beef and fried foods contain bad cholesterol, which can lead to plaque buildup in your arteries and blockages over time. It’s recommended that you consume seafood and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids: just two to three servings of tuna fish a week can improve your heart health.
Changing your lifestyle can feel overwhelming, but it’s important to remember that little steps can make a big change. For more information on how to life a heart-healthy life, talk with your health care provider or visit the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.