Considering that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, it stands to reason that American Heart Month deserves more promotion and awareness. According to the CDC, one person dies every 37 seconds from cardiovascular disease in the U.S., a rate that needs to be reduced drastically.
Yes, the stats for cardiovascular health in America are sordid, but taking some time to think about how you’re treating your heart could help stave off your risk. February is the month we celebrate heart health, so here are a few ways you can take better care of your heart both this month and going forward.
If You’ve Been Neglecting Physical Activity, Now Is the Time to Change
Once you get some momentum going with an exercise routine, it can be hard to stop - and that’s a good thing! Unfortunately, achieving that momentum isn’t always easy and regaining momentum after an event that stops your routine (i.e. sickness or injury) can also be challenging.
Remember, you don’t need to be a gym rat or run 10 miles a day to keep your heart healthy. Just 30 minutes of moderate physical activity can make a significant difference in preventing heart attack or stroke. There are more than a few creative ways to ensure you’re getting the physical activity you need to thrive:
- Join a group that interests you, be it a yoga class, martial art studio, sports club, or any kind of organization that interests you. You’ll quickly build a sense of community with other members of the group, which can help you stay dedicated and accountable to your workouts.
- Incorporate exercise into your daily routine as you can. This could mean running or jogging when you would normally walk, taking the stairs when you would take the elevator, or biking when you would otherwise drive.
- If starting a routine feels overwhelming, tell yourself you’ll just workout for 10 minutes. This can be useful since you will likely workout longer if you get started and, even if you do stop after the 10 minutes, regularly working out for even that short amount of time will help you get into a habit that could truly benefit your heart.
There really is no substitute for exercise, especially in combination with a healthy diet. Even if you’re satisfied with your current workout routine, this month could be a time to reflect on how you can better optimize it for your cardiovascular health or combine it with other healthy habits.
Consciously Watch What You Eat and Drink
What you eat can have a strong influence on your overall heart health, and some of the worst foods for your heart are sometimes the most convenient. Eating out more often, particularly fast food, can often be a time saver on stressful days, but can often lead to overconsumption of processed foods, foods high in sugar content, or foods with high amounts of unhealthy fats. Planning out cooked home meals with fresh ingredients is a great alternative, though it does take some more time.
We’ve recently published a list of heart-healthy foods, but here is a general guideline of foods to consume for better heart health:
- Whole grains
- Leafy vegetables
- Olive Oil
- Dark Chocolate (in moderation and ideally at 70% cocoa and above)
By incorporating more of these foods into your daily and weekly diets, you’ll be in much better position to mitigate the risks of cardiovascular disease.
If You Smoke, Stop Smoking As Soon as Possible
There’s never a better time than the present to stop a bad habit, and smoking is among the worst for your overall health. Yes, smoking is bad for your lungs certainly, but it is also damaging to your heart.
When you smoke, you:
- Narrow the blood vessels, increasing blood pressure
- Can damage the cells within your blood vessels
- Exacerbate the build-up of plaque in the arteries, which is the foundational cause for many cardiovascular diseases
While quitting your smoking habit should be a priority if you do smoke, you should try to combine this lifestyle change with other healthy habits (i.e. increased exercise and intake of heart-healthy food)
Keep Track of Fluctuations in Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
Knowing your blood pressure and cholesterol and regularly keeping track of the readings will give you a better indication of your overall health and cardiovascular health. Though not the end-all-be-all, high blood pressure and high cholesterol (LDL cholesterol or “bad cholesterol”) are risk factors to be taken seriously.
If you’re starting to notice spikes in cholesterol and blood pressure, it might be a good time to get a more comprehensive view of what’s happening to your heart or to schedule more frequent check-up intervals.
Schedule a Scan
Taking control of your health starts by knowing the state of your health in the first place. Receiving a body scan can help give you a more informed idea of where to start changing your habits and improving your lifestyle.
Advanced Body Scan of Tulsa offers a variety of scans for the heart, lungs, and colon, among others. All scans are minimally invasive and take only a few minutes to complete, but can be crucial to detecting early signs of disease and working towards healthy outcomes. To schedule or ask about a scan, visit our website or call us at 918.879.6161.