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American Heart Month

It’s American Heart Month: Here’s How to Show Your Heart Some Love

 

With February being American Heart Month, there’s no better time than now to take a look at ways you can show your heart some love. And, with heart disease affecting nearly 647,000 Americans every year, it’s a topic we all need to be talking more about.

Read on to learn more about some startling heart disease facts, and some steps that you and your family can take to help promote a healthy heart.


Heart Disease Risk Factors

A scary statistic is that the CDC states that about 47% of Americans have at least one of the following risk factors of heart disease.

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Being overweight
  • Having diabetes
  • Consuming a processed and unhealthy diet
  • Living a sedentary lifestyle

While there are quite a few risk factors, the good news is that many of these things are in our control. We have the power to make healthier dietary and lifestyle choices.

Keep reading to learn about some of the steps you can take to support heart health, even if you happen to have one of these heart disease risk factors.

Facts About Heart Disease You Need to Know About

Before diving into some hacks to keep your heart healthy let’s take a look at some of the factors about heart disease, and how it’s becoming a much bigger issue in the US each year.

  • Heart disease is such a big issue that the CDC states that it costs the US roughly $219 billion each year (this number was from 2014-2015). These costs add up from expenses like health care services and medications. Just think about all the money we could save if we just made some simple lifestyle shifts! With an issue so widespread, we owe it to ourselves to make a healthy change.
  • It’s estimated that someone in the United States has a heart attack every 40 seconds, with a total of 805,000 Americans having a heart attack per year.
  • Of these 805,000 Americans that are having heart attacks each year, one in five has a silent heart attack—this means that they may not have even been aware that they had one, but the damage was done.
  • Coronary artery disease happens to be the most common type of heart disease and is killing even young Americans. In fact, 2 in 10 deaths from coronary artery disease occur in those under the age of 65!

5 Hacks to Help Promote a Healthy Heart

There’s a huge issue going on in our country, and more people are dying from heart disease than ever before. Heart issues are killing young people—it’s no longer an issue we only have to worry about as we age.

If change doesn’t happen, these statistics and numbers will continue to rise. The good news? These are steps we all can take to help support a stronger and healthier heart and to help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Here are five ways you and your family can help promote a healthy heart.

#1 Keep Your Blood Pressure in Check

There’s a reason they call high blood pressure a silent killer. Untreated or even undiagnosed high blood pressure is a huge risk factor for heart disease, so keeping your blood pressure in check is going to be key.

You can check your blood pressure levels at home with an at-home blood pressure cuff, go to your routine wellness checks at your doctor’s office, or even have your blood pressure checked at your local pharmacy.

If you have high blood pressure, working with your doctor on a treatment plan is going to be key. Following a healthy diet and lifestyle is also important (keep reading to learn more about that).

#2 Keep Your Cholesterol & Triglyceride Levels Healthy

Maintaining healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels is also important. Having high cholesterol can clog your arteries and increase your risk of a heart attack as well as heart disease.

Having high triglyceride levels (fat in your blood) can also put you at a higher risk of cardiovascular health issues.

You can have these levels checked with routine blood work, and make the necessary dietary and lifestyle changes needed if your levels are high, which we will cover next.

#3 Consume a Heart Healthy Diet

Diet is really going to be key when it comes to protecting your heart. Diet is huge for supporting healthy triglyceride and cholesterol levels and keeping your blood pressure in check. All of these are risk factors you can help control by making wholesome dietary choices.

Focus on eating as many whole foods as you can, and steer clear of packaged and processed foods. We really want to limit excess sodium (commonly found in freezer meals, processed, and fried foods), as well as excess sugar, trans, and hydrogenated fats.

A heart-healthy diet is full of the following foods:

  • Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, and collard greens—rich in antioxidants, and vitamin K, which has been found to help protect our arteries and help support proper blood clotting.
  • Berries—may help reduce the risk of heart disease by reducing inflammation and protecting against oxidative stress. Try adding lots of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries to your diet.
  • Whole grains—ditch the processed and refined grains found in things like white bread, pasta, and pastries. Instead, stick to foods like quinoa, rolled oats, and buckwheat. These are all full of fiber, which may help support healthy cholesterol levels, and thus support a healthy heart.
  • Avocados—avocados make a great heart-healthy fat choice. They are rich in monounsaturated fats, which have been found to help support healthy cholesterol levels. Try adding some avocado to your daily smoothies, add sliced avocado on top of a salad, or even snack on half of an avocado with a sprinkle of hemp seeds, and a drizzle of freshly squeezed lemon juice.
  • Omega-3 Rich Foods—omega-3’s are notoriously known for their anti-inflammatory and heart health benefits. They are found in foods like fatty fish (salmon, sardines), as well as plant-based foods like walnuts, chia, flax, and hemp seeds. According to The American Heart Foundation, these fats help support healthy triglyceride levels, lower blood pressure, improve heart rhythm, and blood vessel function. Consider making these fats a regular part of your heart-healthy diet.
  • Nuts & Seeds: Nuts like almonds, walnuts, and brazil nuts have been found to be a wonderful addition to a heart-healthy diet. Research shows that nuts may help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and even help reduce inflammation. They make a great on-the-go snack option and can be paired with seeds like hemp, flax, and chia for an added omega-3 boost.

In addition to consuming many of these heart-healthy foods, there are also some foods you will want to stay away from.

Some of these foods include:

  • Trans & hydrogenated fats—commonly found in things like margarine, fried foods, pastries, bread, and even some crackers.
  • High Sodium Foods—such as freezer meals, chips, fast food.
  • Sugary Foods—sodas, juice, candy, pastries, sugary cereal.
  • Highly Processed Foods—fast food, packaged snacks, hot dogs, sausage.

#4 Stay Active

Staying active is not only beneficial for blood pressure, strengthening the heart, and supporting better circulation, but it can also help us maintain a healthy weight, a key part of supporting heart health.

Try adding some form of activity into your day to day life, even if it’s just a brisk walk! Staying active doesn’t mean you have to spend hours in the gym each day. A little movement goes a long way in showing our heart some love.

In fact, research shows that exercising 3-5 times per week for just a half-hour can reduce your stress levels while also lowering blood pressure and supporting a stronger and healthier heart.

#5 Reduce Stress & Focus on Better Quality Sleep

One of the not so commonly talked about ways to boost heart health is reducing stress and sleeping more. Stress can increase the risk of high blood pressure, so it’s something we need to be paying more attention to.

Strive to show yourself and your heart some love with a daily act of self-care, even if it just means spending ten minutes per day meditating, reading, or doing something that helps you recenter.

Sleep is also important, not only for stress reduction, but not getting enough sleep increases our risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. All of these increase our risk of heart disease.

If you’re not getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night, it’s time to make sleep a priority. Try establishing an evening routine to help signal that it’s time for bed, and get your body ready for sleep. For many of us, this means turning electronics off at least an hour before bed, doing something calming, like reading, or meditating, and getting to bed earlier.

Make Heart Health a Priority All Year Long

Don't stop just because February is over, make heart health a priority and make it a part of your day to day life. It’s easy to let things like stress, a sedentary lifestyle, and unhealthy eating become habits due to hectic schedules. But, heart disease is on the rise, and it’s affecting people younger and younger.

Now’s the time to really make a change and finally take control of your health. With better eating habits, living a more active lifestyle, and making stress reduction, and sleep a priority, not only will you be actively supporting a healthy heart, but you may just feel healthier and stronger than ever before.