Heart Healthy Tips for American Heart Month

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In the United States, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for men and women. More than 800,000 Americans died in 2017 due to the disease. To raise awareness of the condition and risk-reducing methods, the American Heart Association has designated the month of February as American Heart Month. Cardiovascular disease is largely preventable by diet and other lifestyle choices. Whatever your age, it’s important to take action to reduce your personal risk of developing this life-altering and potentially fatal condition. Improve your heart health with healthful tips below.

Adopt a heart-healthy diet
Diet plays a key role in protecting your heart, and it is one of the most modifiable factors that influences your risk of disease. Cardiologists recommend adopting a diet that limits or eliminates fast food and boxed, processed foods. These foods tend to have lots of saturated fat and calories and little nutritional benefit. Patients should base their diets around fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, and they should aim to cook at home as much as possible. Saturated fat should be limited to no more than 20 grams per day, and patients are advised to limit sugar to no more than 24 grams daily.

Start and maintain an exercise routine
The American Heart Association recommends that people of all ages get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each week. Activities like yoga, aerobics, jogging, cycling, and dancing all count. Exercise done in 10-minute segments throughout the day can be just as beneficial as longer workouts. Simple changes such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator and parking farther back in the parking lot can all make a difference. Patients may wish to wear health tracking devices as motivational tools during their workouts. Patients should choose an exercise with which they feel comfortable, and trying different exercise forms can help keep patients engaged.

Get adequate sleep
Adults generally need between seven to nine hours of sleep each night, and teenagers need even more. Since sleep affects the release of hormones related to stress and hunger, not getting enough can make patients feel hungrier and crave sugary, high-fat foods. Individuals who have poor sleep quality and duration are at a higher risk for obesity, a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease. To adopt a healthy sleep routine, keep the bedroom cool and dark, and avoid watching television in bed. Electronic devices should be turned off at bedtime and ideally kept outside of the bedroom.

Know your health numbers
While patients can do a lot to help their hearts, it’s important to have support. Even if a person has no symptoms, heart issues may be present, and it’s important to have a checkup with a physician each year. These checkups measure blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, and body mass index. If necessary, doctors can recommend medications and support groups to help patients minimize their cardiovascular disease risk.

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