February is American Heart Month, celebrating heart health and raising awareness for heart disease and risk factors for heart attacks. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, and it is a national health problem. That all sounds pretty scary, but the good news is that heart disease is largely preventable and controllable. Below are some easy steps to take to be on your way to a healthier heart. Start small and make easy changes, and if you are already doing these things– keep it up!
1. Exercise regularly–at least 30 minutes most days of the week. This can be as simple as taking a walk with a friend, hiking, biking, or another activity that you enjoy and gets your heart rate up.
2. Maintain a healthy weight.– Your doctor can guide you on what weight and BMI (body mass index) is healthy for you.
3. Eat a healthy diet. Try new fruits and vegetables, and find ways to incorporate all food groups into your diet in a way you enjoy. Especially heart healthy foods include: nuts (even peanuts), beans, berries, apples, oranges (the whole thing, not just the juice), as well as a host of other fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and legumes.
4. Monitor your blood pressure. –Get your blood pressure checked on a regular basis. Often high blood pressure doesn’t have symptoms, and it is harmful for your heart. If you aren’t scheduled for a doctors appointment, your local pharmacy can check it for you.
5. Have your cholesterol checked once every 5 years, and more often if you are at risk for high cholesterol.
6. Don’t smoke. Smoking greatly increases your risk of heart disease.
7. Keep your alcohol consumption in moderation– This means 2 drinks or less per day for men, and one or less for women. High alcohol consumption can increase blood pressure.