It’s February, which means this month is all about the heart. And we’re not just talking about Valentine’s day, February is heart month. Although a broken heart won’t kill you, heart disease can. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, killing about 610,000 lives every year. Unlike cupid’s arrow, heart disease is avoidable. While you can’t change some risk factors such as family history, sex or age, there are plenty of ways you can reduce your risk of heart disease.
Don’t smoke or use tobacco, the chemicals in tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels. Cigarette smoke reduces the oxygen in your blood, which increases your blood pressure and heart rate because your heart has to work harder to supply enough oxygen to your body and brain. However, the risk of heart disease starts to drop as little as a day after quitting. After a year without cigarettes, your risk of heart disease is cut in about half of that of a smoker.
Aim for at least 30 to 60 minutes of exercise everyday. Exercising helps control your weight and reduce your chances of developing other conditions that may put a strain on your heart, such as high blood pressure or cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. Even if you haven’t been active for a while, you may need to slowly work your way up to these goals, but in general, you should aim for at least:
- 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic exercise.
- 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity.
- Two or more strength training sessions a week
Activities such as gardening, housekeeping, taking the stairs and walking the dog all count toward your total. You don’t have to exercise strenuously to achieve benefits.
Eat a heart-healthy diet, a healthy diet can help protect your heart, improve your blood pressure and cholesterol, and lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. Heart-Healthy eating includes these following foods in your diet:
- Vegetables and fruits
- Beans or other legumes
- Lean meats and fish
- Low-fat or fat-free dairy foods
- Whole grains
- Healthy fats, such as olive oil
You should also limit your intake of:
- Processed carbohydrates
- Saturated fat (red meat and full-fat dairy products)
- Trans fat (fried fast food, chips and baked goods)
Get regular health screenings. Without testing for high blood pressure and cholesterol, you probably wouldn’t know you have those conditions. Regular screening can tell you what your numbers are and whether you need to take action. While you’re celebrating with loved ones this Valentine’s Day, don’t forget your heart needs some love, too. Need help getting started? Call us for a consultation with our physical therapist or wellness coach today! 502-395-3825 or [email protected]