Cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, heart attack, and stroke, affect an estimated 80 million Americans and each year more than 600,000 people die from heart disease. Heart disease affects all ages, genders, and ethnicities. Knowing your risk factors and taking an active role to reduce them can help prevent a heart attack or stroke. Risk factors include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, lack of exercise, being overweight, stress, and excessive alcohol use.
Research has shown the best way to protect your heart is to stay active, eat a healthy and balanced diet low in saturated fats, and reduce your daily stress. You don’t have to make big changes to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke, take small steps each week toward adopting a heart healthy behavior. Here are 7 healthy habits to consider that could help save your life.
• Eat a heart-healthy diet. Make vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and fish mealtime staples. Limit salt, saturated fat, and added sugar.
• Get active. Work toward a goal of 150 minutes of moderate activity – like brisk walking per week. Start with 10 minutes once a day.
• Control your blood sugar. Aim for a fasting blood glucose less than 100 mg/dL, and if you have diabetes take your medications as prescribed and monitor your blood glucose levels closely.
• Watch your cholesterol. Strive for a total cholesterol less than 200 mg/dL and an HDL of over 50 mg/dL.
• Maintain a healthy weight. Losing just 7% of your total body weight can decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke, decrease bad cholesterol, and decrease A1C for those with diabetes. Note: for every 1 pound lost – 5 pounds of pressure is decreased on your knees!
• Monitor you blood pressure. Keep your numbers below 120/80 mm Hg.
• Live Smoke-Free. If you smoke. Seek help from your doctor to quit.
So, to celebrate American Heart Month by taking a few minutes to explore the resources below that offer simple tips on the basics of nutrition, easy heart healthy meals, exercise videos, stress reduction practices, weight loss guidance, and more.
Remember, just a small lifestyle change over time can improve your health and decrease your risk of having a heart attack and stroke.
American Heart Month Partner Toolkit | cdc.gov (facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn resources)
Move More Together | American Heart Association (exercise videos)
American Heart Association | To be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives