February is the month for hearts – chocolate hearts, Valentine’s Day hearts, and most importantly, our own heart. In fact, February is American Heart Month – a federally designated month-long event created to help raise awareness about heart disease and prevention.
According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. More than 600,000 Americans die each year from heart disease. In fact, the CDC states that someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds, and more than one person dies from a heart disease related event every minute. Many of these heart related deaths could have been prevented with a healthy lifestyle and diet. Here are five ways to help you lower your risk of developing heart disease:
1. Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, all of which increase your risk for heart disease. If you want to lose weight, try cutting out 500 calories a day from your diet. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways such as smaller portion sizes, using less oil, or skipping the bread. These small steps can end up making a big difference over time.
2. Eat a healthy diet
Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. The American Heart Association suggests eating oily fish, such as salmon, twice a week. Try limiting refined carbohydrates and added sugars – read the nutrition labels to find these added ingredients.
3. Be physically active each day
Exercise strengthens and conditions the heart. It also helps to lower your cholesterol and blood pressure. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. This does not have to be done all at once; you can spread it out over your day and still reap the many benefits.
4. Don’t smoke, and limit your exposure to secondhand smoke
Research abounds that smoking and being exposed to secondhand smoke can lead to heart disease, as well as many other diseases. Once you quit smoking, your chances of getting heart disease are greatly reduced. If you haven’t yet quit, now is the time to do so. No matter how long you have smoked, quitting is beneficial for your body.
5. Pay Attention to Your Numbers
Know your numbers for cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and your BMI (Body Mass Index). These are the most important numbers in relation to risk factors for heart disease. If you have this information, then you’re able to make diet and lifestyle changes as necessary to help improve your risk factors. Talk with your doctor about your numbers and other risk factors that you may have in order to create an individualized plan to reduce your risk for heart disease.
There is a lot that you can do to lower your risk for heart disease, try these five ways today!