American Heart Month
Contributed by Krystal Webb, American Heart Association
February is American Heart Month and if you haven’t thought about your heart health in a while, this month is the perfect time.
The first American Heart Month was in the 1960s when more than half the deaths in the country were caused by cardiovascular disease. Today, cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the country. But there are five simple ways you can protect your heart!
1. Eat Smart Changing your diet is one of the best ways to improve your heart health. But it’s easier said than done. Eat smart by making smaller changes, like turning one dinner a week into a vegetarian meal. That saves calories and fat. Sit down for a healthy family dinner, which will build healthy eating habits over time.
2. Add Color The best way to get a variety of nutrients and vitamins is by eating lots of different fruits and vegetables. If it’s hard to get your family to eat their vegetables, sneak them in by replacing chips with thinly cut sweet potatoes in your favorite nacho recipe. Canned fruits and vegetables are a great way to buy them on the cheap. Buy cans that are packed in their own juice or water and rinse them well before you cook with them.
3. Move More Getting your heart pumping and your body moving is a free and easy way to keep your heart in its best shape. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of physical activity. That’s just a 15-minute walk every day at lunch. If you’re just starting out on your exercise routine, don’t get discouraged. Add a few more minutes to your workout each day and you’ll be a heart health champ in no time.
4. Be Well Diet and exercise are critical to your health, but so is your overall wellness. If you’re stressed out, not sleeping or not taking enough “you time”, your heart pays the price. Be well by making sure you are getting enough sleep. You can get a better night of sleep by working out that day, turning off your phone at night and staying away from caffeine. If you’re stressed, find what relieves it for you. It might be mediation, yoga or even a high-intensity workout class. Whatever relieves your anxiety, is what’s right for you.
5. Know Your Numbers A final, easy way to protect your heart is to learn more about it. Find out what your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels by scheduling an annual check-up with your doctor.
You can find free, healthy recipes, workout inspiration and heart health information at heart.org.
For science-based information on COVID-19 and heart and brain health, visit www.heart.org/coronavirus.