February is American Heart Month, and in celebration, those of us here at Monarque Health & Wellness see it as the perfect time to not only talk about why your heart health is important, but give you the seven steps you need to take to improve your heart health, whether you’re 22 or 82! You’re never too old to get healthy.
The first step in preventing heart disease is eating the right foods. For your heart to stay strong, it needs a variety of minerals and nutrients. Fill your plate with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains and lean meats, like skinless chicken and fish.
Speaking of fish, strive for two servings of oily fish, such as tuna and salmon, each week. These fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, as well as vitamins A and D, all essential to heart health.
When it comes to your heart’s health, what you don’t eat is almost as important as what you do eat. To protect your heart, avoid foods high in saturated fat and eliminate trans fat from your diet.
Reduce sodium, instead using fresh seasonings and herbs to flavor your food. Limit the intake of red meat, and when you do splurge, opt for lean cuts. Strive to eat some meatless meats throughout the week.
Another key aspect of preventing heart disease is to keep active, including getting some exercise most days of the week. The American Heart Association recommends 2.5 hours of moderate exercise, such as a brisk walk, or 1.25 hours of vigorous exercise, like jogging or biking, each week.
In addition, engage in strength-training exercises at least two days a week. If you haven’t been physically active for some time, start slowly and build up your endurance. For children, we recommend at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day.
If you want to give your heart the best care possible, you need to see a physician regularly, even if you’re healthy. Through routine medical appointments, called well visits, we monitor and track things like your blood pressure, heart rate, and maybe even your cholesterol levels.
These factors indicate whether you’re at risk for heart disease, and they allow your doctor to intervene before you have a heart attack or stroke, often the first signs of the disease.
If you haven’t already quit smoking, now’s the time. Talk to your doctor today about ways to help you quit. Dropping the habit lowers your risk for a heart attack and stroke immediately, but it also leads to improvements in your blood pressure and heart rate, which reduces your risk for heart disease.
Even more, if someone you live or work with smokes, avoid being around them when they do. Those regularly exposed to secondhand smoke have a 30% higher likelihood of developing heart disease.
Prolonged periods of heavy stress increase your blood pressure and pulse and can damage your artery walls. Fight back by engaging in stress reduction activities. Both medication and volunteering have shown to help people reduce stress, as do yoga and walking in the park or woods. Take time to unplug and unwind every day and strive to be grateful for the blessings in your life.
Knowing the heart history of your family tree can help you and your doctor understand your risk of developing heart disease. While having a relative with the condition does increase your risk, when they’re your parent or sibling, your risk is even higher, making it even more important to manage your weight and live the healthiest lifestyle you can.
If you know you need to work on your heart health, or just have more questions, call or click to set up a visit with us at Monarque Health & Wellness.