7 Tips To Do Your Part & Care For Your Heart

February is American Heart Month, a time to focus on and bring attention to cardiovascular health. According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Day-to-day life and work can lead to a lifestyle of stress, poor dietary habits, and a limited, or even a non-existing, exercise routine. This slippery slope of unhealthy lifestyle habits can lead to a higher risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and other health-related problems.

It’s never too late to make heart health a priority in everyday life. The American Heart Association (AHA) provides seven simple tips to make healthier lifestyle changes:

  1. Stop smoking – do not smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products.
  2. Maintain a healthy weight – higher body fat percentage can result in a higher risk for heart problems.
  3. Get active – try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity, or a combination a both, each week. If you have not been active, start with 10 minutes and gradually increase activity time.
    • Moderate to vigorous activity includes brisk walking, jogging, running, basketball, swimming, or tennis.
  4. Eat better/make healthier choices – balance what you eat with the energy you burn.
    • The following recommendations from the AHA are based off of a 2,000 calorie diet:
      •  4-5 servings fruits & vegetables daily
      •  At least two (3.5oz) servings of fish per week
      • 6-8 servings of grains per day (try to make a majority of them whole grains)
      • Lower sodium content (less than 1500 mg per day)
      • Limit red meat and sugar-sweetened foods & beverages
      • Include limited amounts of unsalted nuts, legumes and seeds
      • Limit processed meats
      • Choose fat free or low fat dairy products
  5. Maintain good cholesterol levels – keep total cholesterol less than 180 mg/dL.
    • High cholesterol can cause blocked arteries, which can lead to heart disease and stroke.
    • The AHA recommends making healthy dietary changes, maintaining regular physical activity, and keeping a healthy wait to lower cholesterol.
    • Read food labels to make sure you choose foods low in saturated and trans fats.
  6. Manage blood pressure – keep it below 120/80 mmHg. 
    • Higher blood pressure (BP) makes the heart work harder because it can put more strain on the heart and arteries.
    • One high BP reading doesn’t mean an immediate cause for alarm, but if there are two or more readings of 140/90 mmHg or higher, there is a possibility of high BP.
    • Reduce sodium/salt intake to help lower blood pressure.
  7. Control blood sugar – keep fasting blood sugar less than 100 mg/dL.

Following the AHA recommendations will help you not only lead a heart-healthy lifestyle but also take control of your overall health. We’re glad to join the nation in recognizing the importance of heart health this month. Join us in making your heart a priority because a healthy heart is worth striving for every day.

If you have gone through heart surgery or have dealt with heart disease, Windom Area Health offers a medically supervised Cardiac Rehabilitation Program. This program focuses on education and regaining strength to reduce risk factors to prevent future heart events and get them back to their activities of daily living. This program does require a physician’s referral, so if you feel this could be helpful for your continued heart health journey, ask your primary care provider if Cardiac Rehabilitation is right for you. To learn more, call 507-831-0642.

By Lacy Krueger, MS, Cardiac Rehabilitation Coordinator

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