February is Heart Health Month

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February is about more than chocolates, roses and cards to show others how much you care. More importantly, it is about remembering that loving yourself from the inside out begins by taking care of your heart! February is Heart Health Month, emphasizing the importance of taking good care of your heart. Heart disease holds the number one spot for cause of death in both men and women in the United States. Taking time every day to care for your ticker and be around for your loved ones down the road is a much better way to show how much you care!

There are numerous little things you can easily do every day to care for your heart. With the modern job market requiring the work force to stay planted in front of a computer everyday, it is important to make time for fit in exercise during the day. The Heart Foundation suggests a brisk 30-minute walk at least five days a week to get your heart pumping and help keep it strong for years to come. Even if you can’t manage a full 30-minute stroll all at once, try taking two 15 minute strolls daily. A good brisk stroll or two during the workday will help refresh your mind and combat that mid-afternoon post lunch fatigue, far better than a sugary treat.

A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, unsaturated fats such as avocado, low mercury fish, olive oil, legumes and nuts will also help promote a healthy, happy heart. Eating for a happy heart doesn’t have to be boring either. Fresh herbs and spices enhance the flavors of heart healthy foods without the need for an overabundance of salt. The Mayo Clinic states the heart healthy Mediterranean diet as being one that is researched and has shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating primarily plan-based foods and limiting fish and poultry to twice a week, and red meat to no more than a few times per month.

While a heart healthy diet and exercise can make a vast improvement to your heart’s health, it is also important to receive regular checkups from a trusted doctor, especially if heart disease runs in your family. High risk individuals may need additional treatments such as a daily aspirin or blood pressure medication for a healthy heart. Risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol will increase the risk of heart disease, if left untreated. According to The Heart Foundation, high cholesterol affects nearly 40 million Americans, while 72 million Americans over the age of 20 suffer from high blood pressure. Over half a million people in the US lose their life each year to heart disease, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 614,348 deaths from heart disease alone in 2014.

Controlling stress is another important factor for a healthy heart. Activities such as meditation and yoga promote relaxation through breathing techniques and quieting the mind to connect with the body. Taking time to focus on doing something good for your body, such as a massage or nature hike, can also help reduce the stress a hectic lifestyle can have on our hard working heart and body. Loving yourself is just as important as loving others, and your heart, mind and body will thank you!