February isn’t just about Valentine’s Day and love; it’s also a time to focus on another vital aspect of our lives: heart health. Observed every February, American Heart Month helps raise awareness about cardiovascular health, encourages preventive measures, and inspires positive lifestyle changes.
The heart is the engine that keeps our bodies running. It pumps blood carrying essential nutrients and oxygen to every part of the body. However, various factors, including poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, and stress can contribute to heart-related issues.
Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death globally. It includes conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure. Many risk factors are modifiable, meaning we can take measures to lower our chances of risk. To live a healthy life, we must follow basic steps such as maintaining a balanced diet, participating in regular physical activity, managing stress effectively, avoiding tobacco, and monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Here are some things you can do to keep your heart healthy and happy:
1. Follow a nutritious diet.
Diet is the toughest for me and, I’d assume, for many others. Eating healthy isn’t only more expensive, but it can also seem boring and mundane. Incorporating heart-healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and omega-3 fatty acids into your diet helps maintain a healthy heart. But remember, you don’t have to be perfect. You can still eat the foods you love, just in moderation. To follow a healthy diet, it’s important to control the consumption of saturated and trans fats, salt, and added sugars.
2. Engage in regular exercise.
Find something you enjoy and set a goal of at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week. Walking, jogging, swimming, and cycling can significantly improve cardiovascular health. And so many apps with activities can keep you coming back for more. If you live in a climate that makes exercising outdoors difficult, spend more time at the gym. Exercise will have a much more positive impact on your life than lying on the couch.
3. Maintain a healthy weight.
If you’re like me, maintaining a healthy weight is difficult and sometimes feels nearly impossible. Unfortunately, being overweight puts extra strain on our hearts. Adopting a balanced diet and staying active can help achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Losing weight requires time, patience, and dedication. If you’re struggling, look for support groups or diet plans that can help.
4. Manage stress.
Chronic stress can contribute to heart problems. Engaging in stress-reducing practices, such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing, or hobbies, is essential. These activities can help you relax and feel calmer and more centered.
5. Stop smoking.
Smoking is a significant risk factor for heart disease. If you want to quit smoking, seek support. Making a significant lifestyle change can be difficult.
6. Have regular health checkups.
Monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar regularly. It’s crucial to detect and manage potential risk factors for heart complications early on to prevent them from happening.
As we celebrate this month, let’s commit to prioritizing our cardiovascular well-being. Small, consistent changes in lifestyle can have a profound impact. Whether choosing a heart-healthy meal, going for a brisk walk, or attending a local awareness event, every step counts toward a healthier heart.
Source: CDC physical activity guidelines