February is American Heart Health Month — what a great time to reevaluate yours. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.
It is essential to take your heart health seriously. There are many known risk factors for heart disease, including smoking, high blood pressure, being overweight, diabetes, and even physical inactivity.
The good news is there are many ways to prevent heart disease — and even reverse it with better management and lifestyle changes. That’s a good thing!
Here are some ways to live a healthier lifestyle and improve your heart health.
Increase your physical activity.
Moderate exercise such as walking and even gardening for 20-30 minutes a day or vigorous exercise such as swimming or running for 10-20 minutes a day will keep you active without excessive strain.
Improve your diet.
Incorporate fruits, vegetables, fiber, whole grains, lean proteins (including plant-based proteins), and healthy fats in your diet. Avoid red meat, fried foods, trans fats, and sugar.
Find a healthy weight.
If you are overweight or obese, make maintaining your weight a goal and weight-loss a priority.
Avoid smoking tobacco or using marijuana.
Avoid excessive alcohol.
If you don’t drink, don’t start. And remember, more than one (for women) or two drinks (for men) per day may increase your risk for heart problems.
Aim for seven hours of sleep each night.
Control your risk factors.
If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or high blood sugar, it is crucial to ensure they are well-controlled. Talk with your doctor about your specific heart risk. They might recommend daily medications to lower your risk of heart disease or heart attack.
For more information on heart disease, the steps you can take to prevent it, and how to create a heart-healthy lifestyle, visit www.heart.org.
Special thanks to Dr. Eduardo Sanchez for his contributions to this article.