February is Heart Health Month. We shouldn’t need a special month to be thinking about our heart, but it is an important reminder. I usually don’t ask for it until the end, but if reading this article makes you think of a friend or a loved one, please share it with them.
My motivation for writing this article stems from my own personal experience with heart health (I’ll save that for another article). I spent much of my early adulthood focusing on seemingly everything but my cardiovascular health.
On the outside, I looked fit but my resting blood pressure was 140/80. As we know, blood pressure can cause a myriad of cardiovascular issues and I was on the path to a cardiovascular event possibly later in life. I’m proud to report that my most recent blood pressure checked in at 109/69. This dramatic improvement is due to multiple lifestyle changes. While we cannot ever fully guarantee our health, I believe very strongly that we should dedicate our efforts on keeping our heart healthy and strong.
The Facts About Heart Disease
Heart disease can happen at any age. According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States. Here are some other facts regarding disease of the most important muscle:
One person dies every 37 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease and nearly 650,000 Americans die from heart disease each year.
In 2015, heart disease cost the United States an estimated $219 billion due to health care services, medicines, and lost productivity due to death.
Each year, approximately 805,000 Americans experience a heart attack, and even scarier, 1 in 5 heart attacks is silent. This means that damage done to the heart is completely unknown by the individual.
I list these facts, not as a scare tactic but motivation. If you feel that you are impervious to cardiovascular disease, you are wrong. It’s important to address that fact early in your life so that you can shift your focus from ‘It doesn’t matter,’ to ‘I want to live a long and healthy life!’
How to Improve Your Heart Health
I don’t want this article to be too long and bore you. Let’s cut to the chase – here are ACTIONABLE steps you can take to improve the health of your heart and decrease the risk of heart disease:
- Move Often: Consensus recommendations state that you need to get AT LEAST 150 minutes of activity every week. Every single minute counts – there is a cumulative effect when it comes to activity, so capitalize on 5 minutes here and there. Make this a non-negotiable in your (and your family’s) life.
- Be Conscious of What You Eat: I won’t refer you to a specific diet or rigid guidelines, but rather, be aware of what you are putting into your body. You know Cheesy Puffs aren’t good for your heart – if you must eat them, have some self control and eat a few once in a while. Focus on a balanced diet. Lower your sodium intake. Just be conscious!
- Speak With Your Doctor: Heart health is not something to avoid discussing – if you have high blood pressure, cholesterol, stress, etc., you want to confront that issue and find a solution. Find a trustworthy physician and start the conversation.
- Don’t Hate Cardiovascular Exercise: This is a joke, right? NO. My first 15 years of exercising, I avoided ‘cardio.’ However, once you can see the value in having a healthy, strong heart, your attitude may shift. Cardio doesn’t have to be long-duration, steady-state exercise. You can perform high intensity interval training or a form of cross training to keep things exciting.
- De-Stress: If you read that ‘Distress,’ then this is the perfect advice for you. It’s easy to say, but much harder to do. Removing stress from your life doesn’t mean you throw caution to the wind or ignore the cause. It means that you find better ways to reduce and manage your stress. Meditate, be grateful, exercise, etc.
Heart Health Month is upon us. Use it as an excuse to be mindful of your heart health and the heart health of your loved ones. After all, I want you to live a long, fulfilling life.
Do me a favor, don’t just hoard these actionable steps for yourself – please share them with ONE person who comes to your mind.
If you have other tips or have found success in another way, please leave us a comment below – we’d love to hear from you.