Heart-Healthy Tips for American Heart Month
February is American Heart Month, the perfect time of year to show a little love for the “engine” that literally pumps up your day – your heart. Healthyroads, the award-winning wellness subsidiary of American Specialty Health Incorporated, encourages everyone to pay attention to matters of the heart, and not just for Valentine’s Day.
“Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States,” said Mary Jane Osmick, M.D., vice president and medical director of health services for Healthyroads. “Fortunately, we have the tools to fight back against this pernicious disease – simple lifestyle changes can make a huge difference, and one of Healthyroads’ primary goals is to empower everyone to make heart-healthy choices.”
The good news is there are many risk factors for heart disease that you can control. Here are six tips to help you address important matters of the heart.
- Get a Move On! Getting more active benefits your heart as well as your overall health. Here are just a few fun ways to spark your imagination: Take a walk outdoors. Go dancing. Play golf. Work in the garden. The possibilities are unlimited! For example, swimming and tai chi are other great low-impact ways to get active. Make small changes to your daily routine: Get off one stop early if you take the bus, or park a little farther away from your destination if you drive.
- Eat Healthy. It’s easy to do, and is key to heart health. This means eating mostly fresh veggies and fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy foods and lean proteins like chicken and fish. And don’t forget the flip side: Avoid eating too much total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and salt.
- Lose Weight. Being overweight is a major factor in heart disease. Even losing just 10 percent of your body weight can help your heart a lot. Make a plan to help with weight loss. Include exercise. Substitute fresh foods for processed foods. Stop eating fast foods. Read the labels on the foods you buy and avoid foods high in calories, sugar and trans fats. If your worksite offers a health coaching program, find a health coach who can help you reach your weight goals.
- Learn How to Cope With Stress. If you are often stressed, you may be more likely to have heart trouble. There are a number of mind-body techniques that can help you relieve stress. Meditation, for example, can be practiced anytime, anywhere; diaphragmatic breathing – aka belly breathing – is another stress-busting technique that is simple to learn.
- Don’t Smoke. It’s as plain as that: Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. So, if you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, make a plan to quit by a certain time period. Find out if your employer offers a stop smoking program and join it.
- Limit Alcohol Use. All things in moderation! Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which causes high blood pressure and can damage your heart.
This February – as we approach Valentine’s Day – start working on the perfect gift for your loved ones: a heart-healthy you.