5 Simple Habits To Adopt That Will Improve Your Heart Health



February is American Heart Health Month. Here’s what you need to know to take care of the vital organ, as heart disease is still the leading cause of death for Americans, men and women alike.

According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States, with 22.6% of Black people passing away due to the disease. One person dies every 33 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease. About 695,000 people in the United States died from heart disease in 2021—that’s 1 in every 5 deaths.

What is heart disease?

Heart disease refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type of heart disease in the United States is coronary artery disease (CAD), which affects the blood flow to the heart. Decreased blood flow can cause a heart attack. Although heart disease may be “silent” and not easily diagnosed right away, there are specific symptoms to look out for, like a heart attack, heart failure, or an arrhythmia. See symptoms below:

Heart attack: Chest pain or discomfort, upper back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea or vomiting, extreme fatigue, upper body discomfort, dizziness, and shortness of breath.

● Arrhythmia: Fluttering feelings in the chest (palpitations).

Heart failure: Shortness of breath, fatigue, or swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, or neck veins.

Additionally, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. About half of people in the United States (47%) have at least one of these three risk factors.2 Several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease, including diabetes, overweight and obesity, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol use. However, despite the bleak statistics, you have the autonomy and power to take action to protect yourself against heart disease. Doing small-heart healthy actions like increasing your movement daily or choosing healthier foods. Here are several easy ways to lower the risk of heart disease. 

Get quality sleep: Lack of or poor-quality sleep increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and other medical conditions.

Try to aim for 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
Exercise regularly, but not within 2-3 hours before bedtime.
Avoid caffeine and nicotine.

Pay attention to your weight: Choose healthy snacks like fruits, vegetables, yogurt, or nuts instead of sugary or high-calorie snacks. Maintaining stable blood sugar levels is crucial for heart health, especially for people with diabetes or those at risk of developing diabetes.

● Stay hydrated with water as your primary beverage.

● Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity (like running) exercise per week.

● Eat a diet rich in whole foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

● Monitor your carbohydrate intake and choose complex carbohydrates, like whole grains and legumes, to help control blood sugar levels.

● Talk to your healthcare provider about how often you should check your blood sugar levels, especially if you have diabetes.

Improve your eating habits: A flexible and balanced diet can help lower your high blood pressure and cholesterol.
● Read nutrition labels to pick the food lowest in saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.

● Try a mix of lean cuts of meat, eat fish once or twice a week, and eat two or more meatless meals each week.

● Consider whole fruits, dried fruits, unsalted rice cakes, fat-free and low-fat yogurt, or raw vegetables as a snack.

● Limit alcohol consumption. Drinking too much alcohol— more than one drink a day for women—can raise your total cholesterol level.

Dial up the physical activity: Getting enough physical activity helps to lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

● Adults should spend at least 150 minutes (2 1⁄2 hours) each week doing physical activity.

● Try muscle-strengthening activities like lifting weights, working with resistance bands, doing sit-ups and push-ups, or some forms of yoga—whatever works for you.

Try to keep your stress low: Learning how to manage stress with healthy coping strategies helps improve your emotional and physical health.

● Use relaxation techniques that combine breathing and focused attention on pleasing thoughts and images to calm the mind and body.
● Consider meditation, as it can help to lower stress.


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