February is American Heart Month and we’re raising awareness on cardiovascular health.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s article What is Heart-Healthy Living, “Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women.”
Risk factors for heart disease include:
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol
- Being overweight or obese
- Being prediabetic or diabetic
- Not getting regular physical activity
- Having a family history of early heart disease. For example, if your father or brother was diagnosed before age 55, or your mother or sister was diagnosed before age 65
- Having a history of preeclampsia, a sudden rise in blood pressure and too much protein in the urine during pregnancy
- Having unhealthy eating behaviors
- Are age 55 or older for women or age 45 or older for men
Fortunately, there are heart-healthy choices we can make to reduce our chances of getting heart disease. These include:
- Not smoking or using tobacco
- Getting regular physical activity. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends “each week, adults get at least:
- 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, or
- 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or
- A combination of both moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity activity."
- Eating heart-healthy foods. According to https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/heart-healthy-living/healthy-foods, a heart -healthy diet includes:
- Vegetables such as leafy greens (spinach, collard greens, kale, cabbage), broccoli, and carrots
- Fruits such as apples, bananas, oranges, pears, grapes, and prunes
- Whole grains such as plain oatmeal, brown rice, and whole-grain bread or tortillas
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy foods such as milk, cheese, or yogurt
- Protein-rich foods:
- Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, tuna, and trout)
- Lean meats such as 95% lean ground beef or pork tenderloin or skinless chicken or turkey
- Nuts, seeds, and soy products (tofu)
- Legumes such as kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, and lima beans
- Oils and foods high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats:
- Canola, corn, olive, safflower, sesame, sunflower, and soybean oils (not coconut or palm oil)
- Nuts such as walnuts, almonds, and pine nuts
- Nut and seed butters
- Salmon and trout
- Seeds (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, or flax)
- Limiting sodium (salt), saturated fat, added sugars, and alcohol.
- Managing stress. According to https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/heart-healthy-living/manage-stress, “Talk with friends, family, and community or religious support systems.”
- Checking your blood pressure and cholesterol. If either of your numbers are high, work with your doctor to get it to a healthy range. According to https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/heart-healthy-living/risks, below are helpful “questions to ask your provider at your annual checkup:
- What is my risk of developing heart disease?
- What is my blood pressure? What does it mean for me, and what do I need to do about it?
- What are my cholesterol numbers? What do they mean for me, and what do I need to do about them?
- What is my body mass index (BMI) and waist measurement? Do I need to lose weight for my health?
- What is my blood sugar level, and does it mean I’m at risk for diabetes?
- What other screening tests for heart disease do I need? How often should I return for checkups for my heart health?
- How can we work together to help me quit smoking?
- How much physical activity do I need to help protect my heart?
- What is a heart-healthy eating plan for me? Should I see a registered dietitian or qualified nutritionist to learn more about healthy eating?
- How can I tell when I’m having a heart attack?"
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Getting enough good-quality sleep. According to https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/heart-healthy-living/sleep, adults aged 18 years or older should get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
For more information on the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s article, What Is Heart-Healthy Living?, visit https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/heart-healthy-living.