FEBRUARY IS NATIONAL HEART MONTH
February is National Heart Month—a month when the American Heart Association raises awareness about heart disease. You may not be aware of this, but heart disease is the number one killer of women. By raising awareness, the Heart Association hopes to save lives.
There are steps that you can take to help reduce your risk. Knowing the signs and symptoms of heart disease, as well as following heart-healthy advice are two practices that can help. We have gathered some of the American Heart Association’s heart-healthy tips. Take a look, and see what you can do to take care of your heart.
Tip #1 – Get a Checkup Every Year
Getting an annual checkup by your primary care physician is very important to your health. A doctor can spot warning signs and other symptoms of disease before you may be aware of any problem. Blood tests are important too, and can screen for high cholesterol and other concerns. It’s easy to procrastinate or forget to make your appointment. To help combat this, make your appointment right around your birthday, and then make it an annual event!
Tip #2 – Review the Warning Signs of Heart Attack
When a heart attack occurs, every minute is precious. You need to get medical help as soon as possible. But not everyone realizes when they are having a heart attack, and precious time can be wasted. Review the American Heart Association’s Heart Attack Symptoms in Women. Commit these warning signs to memory, so that you know them if you ever experience them. If you have these symptoms, call 9-1-1 right away.
Tip # 3 – Find ways to cut your stress level
Stress seems to be a fact of life. People experience stress in their jobs and stress at home, and these days, it seems like everything and everyone is in a big rush. But remember that stress can be bad for your health. It’s important that we find ways to manage our stress. Some ways to reduce stress include exercising at the gym, going on a long run or walk, reading a book, watching TV, petting the cat, walking the dog, shopping at the mall, meeting a friend, or just finding a little quiet time alone.
Tip #4 – Get heart exercise!
Exercise is on every advice list you can imagine, and there’s a reason. Exercise helps your heart and your whole body! If you are not in good shape now, the first thing you should do to begin getting in shape is to talk with your doctor about a safe fitness plan. (If you are out of shape, exercising too hard can be dangerous; your doctor will help you get into shape more safely and gradually.)
If you are already a regular exerciser, then keep up the good work! The American Heart Association recommends 3 to 5 hours of moderate-level exercise per week. This may sound like a lot, but remember, exercise can be fun! Take a bike ride with a friend. Meet a friend for a walk instead of going out for food. Join a gym and meet new people. There are many ways to make exercise a regular part of your life.
Tip # 5 – Eat for your Heart
When given the choice between bacon and broccoli, you can probably guess which is better for your heart. A heart-healthy diet should be high in fiber (try fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) and low in saturated fats, cholesterol, and sodium (avoid bacon, potato chips, and doughnuts). The American Heart Association provides loads of suggestions on their Healthy Eating website. Why not try a new recipe today?
Tip # 6 – Aim for a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI)
It is important to keep your weight within healthy limits, and the body mass index is the measure that is used to calculate the best weight for your height. You can calculate your BMI on the American Heart Association’s free Body Mass Index calculator. Being overweight or obese can contribute to health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and heart attack. If you are overweight, it is best to ask your doctor about the safest way for you to lose weight.
Tip # 7 – Give up smoking
If you smoke, you already know that quitting smoking is very hard to do. If you have tried and failed before, there is no reason that you can’t try again. Your heart and lungs will appreciate you! One of the best ways to start the process of quitting is to talk to your doctor about a smoking cessation program. In addition, there may be online resources that give you the support you need, such as the American Lung Association’s Stop Smoking website.
Tip # 8 – Go easy on the alcohol
For those who enjoy drinking, there is some good news. A small amount of alcohol does not seem to be bad for your heart health. The recommended limit is one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men. The problem occurs if you are drinking more heavily than that. Heavier drinking can raise your blood pressure and raise your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. If you are a heavy drinker, don’t try to quit cold turkey all by yourself. There can be serious withdrawal symptoms. Instead, talk to your doctor about a safe way to stop.
Tip # 9 – Take your meds according to doctor’s orders
If you are prescribed medications for your heart health, such as cholesterol-lowering meds or blood pressure meds, be sure you take them as directed. Your doctor has prescribed them to help lower your risk of heart problems, so take the orders seriously!
These tips were compiled from the information on the American Heart Association’s healthy living webpages. The American Heart Association offers many resources, including an e-newsletter, healthy recipes, and how-to videos. We hope these tips have helped you choose a heart-healthy lifestyle!
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