February is American Heart Month and with that in mind, here are our top 5 tips on how to be proactive with your heart health.
1.) Check your blood pressure often.
A study conducted by Harvard Medical School has revealed that people with hypertension (high blood pressure) who monitored their blood pressure from home had more success getting their blood pressure under control than those who only received usual care from their health provider.
They advise that you check your blood pressure at home at least once or twice a month. Click over to Walmart’s website to find inexpensive blood pressure monitor options.
2.) Quit smoking.
Smoking can increase your risk for heart disease as well as other dangerous diseases like lung cancer. According to the American Heart Association, cigarette smoking is behind a staggering 440,000 or more of the 2.4 million annual preventable premature deaths in the United States. Smoking, along with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, lack of physical activity, and diabetes are all major risk factors for coronary disease that you can control.
Be sure to view the American Heart Association’s Smoking & Cardiovascular Disease (Heart Disease) resource page for help with quitting smoking and for more information on how smoking affects heart health.
3.) Know the symptoms.
Unlike the highly-dramatized examples that we are shown on TV or in the movies, heart attacks often start as mild discomfort in the chest followed by more gradually more intense pain. Did you know? The symptoms can differ by gender. For men, the most common symptom is chest pain. For women, however, the symptoms can range from chest pain to nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, and jaw or back pain.
Being able to recognize the signs of a stroke can mean the difference between life and death. Train yourself and your loved ones to spot the FAST stroke warning signs and symptoms. Watch for face drooping, arm weakness, and speech difficulty. Time is of the essence with stroke victims, so if you notice any of these symptoms you must act quickly to get them help right away.
To learn more on stroke, heart attack, and cardiac arrest warning signs from the American Heart Association go here.
4.) Eat healthy foods.
Cutting down on salt intake and eating foods full of nutrients and essential vitamins can help lower blood pressure and regulate blood sugar. Eating healthy can also help fight cortisol – the stress hormone which can weaken our immune system. The CDC recommends eating a health diet which is “low in salt; low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol; and rich in fresh fruits and vegetables.”
5.) Get exercise daily (at least a little).
Pretty much any health article you read will tell you the benefits of exercise. Exercise not only helps with boosting mood and energy, but can also reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Those who get moving (active lifestyle) are nearly 50% less at risk of developing heart disease than those who spend all day sitting (sedentary lifestyle) says an in-depth survey produced by the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine.
Health professionals recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise per day most days of the week to maintain a healthy fitness level. Not sure where to get started? Try out these low impact exercise workouts for beginners from fitnessblender.com and hasfit.com.
6.) Bonus tip: Spend more quality time with your pets.
Studies have shown that stroking a pet can help to lower blood pressure. Read more about how pets help to keep us happy and healthy here.
Why not kill two birds with one stone? You and your pet can get in shape together. Shape.com offers a simple workout that you can do with your dog. You can do these while out on a stroll or at home. Be sure to check out Women’s Health Magazine’s list of best pet-friendly fitness classes. In addition, DoggyBnB.com shares their favorite low and high impact workouts to do with Fido here.