February is the month for the heart- not only is there Valentine’s Day, but it is also American Heart Month! Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and while this fact is scary, the good news is it’s preventable! Incorporating lifestyle factors such as maintaining a healthy weight, consuming a nutritious diet, engaging in physical activity, smoke free living, and managing underlying conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes can help reduce your risk of heart disease. Let Cupid’s arrow guide you in the direction of self-love, and begin taking steps towards a healthier heart today!

Managing a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a normal weight helps significantly reduce your risk for heart disease and associating conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Measurement tools such as BMI (body mass index) or waist circumference help provide insight regarding your current weight and risk level. Body Mass Index is a tool based off of a weight vs. height ratio to determine a person’s health risk. A BMI of 25 or more can increase the chances of developing heart related issues in the future. Using waist circumference measurements is another method in evaluating your heart health standings. It is recommended to have a waist circumference no greater than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men. Small changes go a long way! Even 3-5% weight loss can significantly improve health outcomes and decrease the possibility of heart concerns.

Incorporating a Nutritious Diet

Incorporating a healthy diet into your lifestyle is one of the best steps to take towards improving your overall well-being. With so much information about good nutrition available it can be difficult to figure out what to add and what to limit in your diet. Let’s break it down to help provide a better understanding:

  • Foods to incorporate into your diet
    • Fruits and vegetables
    • Whole grains
    • Beans and legumes
    • Low fat dairy
    • Lean proteins such as poultry and fish
    • Unsaturated fats
  • Foods to limit
    • Saturated fats (tropical oils, butter, hydrogenated oils)
    • Added sugars
    • Sodium- aim for no more than 2300mg per day
    • Sugar-sweetened beverages

Making small adjustments to your diet are a great way to improving your heart health. Set realistic goals for yourself and take it one day at a time. Do you need help making changes? Contact our dietitian to begin learning how you can make nutritious lifestyle modifications today!

Adding Physical Activity

The cold weather is here, making our couch and blanket look more desirable than ever! However with just a few minutes of activity you can be just as warm! Exercise contains many physical and mental benefits for your heart. Engaging in regular movement can help lower your blood pressure, strengthen your cardiac muscles, maintain a healthy weight, lower stress, and reduce inflammation. How much should you be exercising?

  • Guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of aerobic (cardio) activity per week
    • This includes things like walking, running, biking, swimming, and dancing
    • Start small! While 150 minutes seems like a large number, strive for a goal that is manageable for you. Research shows there are benefits in any amount of movement, even 10 minutes per day can go a long way.
  • Aim for at least 2 days/week of strength training
    • Whether it is using dumbbells or body weight, engaging in muscle building activities are an important aspect of exercise. Yoga can also be a great place to start to help incorporate muscle movement into your routine!

Smoke Free Living

Engaging in a smoke-free lifestyle can have a large impact on your heart. The various chemicals in tobacco can damage both heart and blood vessels. Excess cigarette smoke can also decrease oxygen supply to your blood causing the heart to work harder, leading to increased blood pressure and heart rate. The heart begins to see benefits from the first day of being smoke free! If you want assistance with quitting smoking, visit your primary care physician or visit www.smokefree.gov for helpful tools and guidance.

Managing Underlying Conditions

It is important to stay up to date with your annual physical to help identify or manage any underlying medical conditions. Working together with your primary care you can identify your risk for heart disease by monitoring your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and screen for type 2 diabetes. There is no better time than right now to start taking action, and making your health a priority!