February is American Heart Month. Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of American deaths each year, but you can reduce your risk by taking an active role in keeping your heart healthy. Simple lifestyle changes can have a big impact on your heart health and overall wellness. Try these tips to keep your heart healthy and strong all year long.
- Know your numbers.
Maintaining a healthy weight, blood pressure and total cholesterol can play a significant role in heart health. Partner with your physician to create a plan to keep these numbers within the recommended ranges.
- Get active.
Physical activity helps to prevent cardiovascular disease, and it can improve overall mental and physical health. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week. At CLV, we offer residents a variety of exercise options including taking part in our group walks, participating in an exercise class and working out in our gym or pool. Whatever activities you choose, try to include both cardiovascular and strength training in your weekly routine.
- Eat smart.
Try to limit foods with added sugars, saturated fat and excessive sodium levels while including plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and fish. If you’re interested in learning more about nutrition, view our nutritionist’s What’s Cooking articles.
- Get enough rest.
Sleep is an essential part of maintaining a healthy heart. Studies indicate adults who have less than six hours of sleep each night are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke compared to those who sleep between six to eight hours. According to researchers, sleep deficiencies may cause disruptions in underlying health issues and biological processes, including blood pressure and inflammation.
- Manage your stress.
Stress can increase cortisol levels, which may lead to weight gain, a key risk factor for heart disease. In addition, stress can lead to further unhealthy habits while increasing the risk of anxiety and depression. Try practicing positive self-talk, incorporating mindfulness meditation breaks throughout the day, breath prayers and these six tips for managing stress.
If you are feeling overwhelmed thinking of how you can incorporate these tips into your life, do not worry. The key is to set realistic goals for yourself. If your goals are not realistic, you will not be able to maintain them.
For example, if you are concerned about working out for 150 minutes a week, set a smaller immediate goal with the intention of working up to 150 minutes. Rather than deprive yourself of your favorite sweet, reduce your portion and/or how often you eat it.
By following these tips, you will help reduce your risk for heart disease, and your heart will love you for it!
About the Author
Sherry Stick is the fitness and aquatics coordinator at Carroll Lutheran Village and has been working for CLV for nearly 20 years.