While February is commonly known for Valentine’s Day and the time of year when a certain groundhog checks for his shadow, it is also designated American Hearth Month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Instead of indulging in sugar-coated hearts with cliché love messages, the CDC encourages all to evaluate their overall health and lifestyle.
According to the CDC, heart disease remains the number one cause of death for both men and women. While it is well-known that heart disease claims many lives each year, what many do not know is that it only takes a few small, but significant changes in order to drastically reduce their chances of heart disease.
Below are a few quick ways to make sure you are heart healthy not only this February, but for many Februarys to come.
A diet that contains foods high in sodium or cholesterol raises the risk of contracting heart disease. Those who are interested in reducing their risk of heart disease should incorporate more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat meats into their diet. The CDC also recommends swapping out salt for herbs and spices wherever possible.
Everyone knows they should exercise a few times per week, yet many people struggle to follow through with their commitment to stay active. If you’re physically able to exercise but simply lack the time to put in a few hours at your local gym, try to incorporate more exercise in simple ways. The most common example is taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Other ideas include scheduling in breaks to get up from your desk during the workday and walk to the nearest coffee shop or just to the water cooler to stretch your legs.
When was the last time you had a checkup? Most of us aspire to visit our physician at least once a year – it’s important to use this opportunity to have a conversation with your doctor about your heart health. Your physician can offer other ways to reduce your chances of heart disease and improve your overall health.
Heavy smokers or drinkers are at a significantly higher risk of heart disease. If quitting seems next to impossible, try to at least cut back on these risk-causing habits in your daily routine. Instead of having two drinks at dinner, have one. Eventually, if you fully commit to reducing these habits, you’ll find it easier to completely phase them out of your life, which will lead to improved heart health.