Turn heart-healthy choices into lifelong habits
February is American Heart Month. Join the Salter School in celebrating this month by adopting heart-healthy habits into your life. Many people are aware that heart disease is a leading cause of death among men, but did you also know that it’s a leading cause of death among women? That is why heart health is important for men and women alike. Try these tips to make a positive change in your life.
1. Get a checkup every year
Getting an annual physical is important for your heart health. Your doctor will measure your blood pressure and order blood tests to check your cholesterol. If you haven’t had a physical in a while, schedule one today. All it takes is a couple minutes to pick up the phone and make that appointment. It could save your life!
2. Know the warning signs of a heart attack
In many cases, the victim of a heart attack may have some advance warning. Every minute counts when you are having a heart attack. Know the signals, and be ready to call 9-1-1 to get help immediately. To learn the warning signs, use the American Heart Association’s Catch the Signs Early list.
3. Improve your eating habits
No one can eat perfectly all the time, but have you evaluated your diet recently. Are you eating a heart-healthy diet? Heart healthy eating means:
- eating a variety of vegetables from every color group
- eating whole grains and limiting processed grains
- choosing leaner meats and limiting the fattier meats
- controlling your portion sizes
- limiting sugar and sodium
For some great suggestions on making your diet more heart-healthy, try the American Heart Association’s Eat Smart website.
4. Quit smoking
Most people know that smoking is bad for your lungs, but did you know it hurts your heart as well? Smoking affects your entire health outlook, and even impacts the health of others who breathe second-hand smoke. There’s no doubt about it—quitting smoking is hard. But it’s worth it. Try the American Lung Association’s Stop Smoking website, or talk to your doctor about ways to quit.
5. Keep your drinking in moderation
Heavy drinking can also be bad for your heart and can contribute to other health problems, including diabetes and obesity. Try not to exceed the recommended limit of two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. If you drink heavily or suspect you may have alcohol dependence, talk to your doctor about a safe course of action.
6. Watch your BMI (body mass index)
The American Heart Association has a free Body Mass Index calculator. All you need to do is enter your height and your weight. This will tell you if your BMI is within normal range. If it is too high, talk to your doctor about a safe way to lose those extra pounds.
7. Cut back on your stress
Stress may not be a vice—like junk food, smoking, or drinking—but it is still a risk factor for heart disease. It’s important to find ways to manage your stress. Strategies like meditation or yoga may work for some people. Others may prefer to read a book or listen to music. Or if your life is super stressful, you may need to make changes to your life to remove the stressors. If you find yourself stressed out all the time, talk to your doctor about possibilities such as counseling or other therapy.
8. Work out on a regular basis
Staying in shape is important for heart health. Aim for 3 to 5 hours of moderate-level exercise each week, according to the American Heart Association guidelines. If you are out of shape, be sure to ask your doctor about building up to a safe and effective exercise regimen. Exercise doesn’t have to be a burden. Make it fun by exercising with a friend or listening to your favorite music while you work out. Here are some exercise tips to help you fit exercise into your day.
9. Take your medications as directed
Even with a healthy lifestyle, some people still need medicine to control their cholesterol or blood pressure. If you are prescribed any medication by your doctor, be sure that you understand the directions for taking it, and follow the directions closely.
These heart-healthy tips were drawn from the American Heart Association’s healthy living webpages. We hope you are able to adopt some new habits that can last you a lifetime! You will be glad you did.
The Salter School offers career-training programs for people wishing to become Medical Assistants, Health Claims Specialists (Medical Billing and Coding specialists), or Massage Therapists. Contact us online to find out more about our programs.