During February, our thoughts might turn to valentines, chocolates and, for some, heart disease. Many of us try our best to stay healthy but we’re human.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. And February marks American Heart Month, which is a great time to commit to a healthy lifestyle and make small changes that can lead to a lifetime of heart health. Here’s a few sweet morsels of practical heart healthy advice to keep us all thinking about ways we all can lessen the likelihood of developing heart disease, this month and beyond.
Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference
If you’re using any tobacco, stop. Also, stay away from second-hand smoke. If you currently smoke, quitting can cut your risk for heart disease and stroke. Easy, right?
Add exercise to your daily routine. Regular exercise is one the smartest, safest and least expensive things you can do to keep your heart, body, mind and spirit in good working order. Just 2.5 hours a week will reduce your risk for heart attack, stroke and dementia by at least 30 percent. Start off the month by walking 20 minutes, 3 times each week. By mid-month, increase your time to 30 minutes, 3 times each week. Exercise can be as simple as walking, as long as it is sustained for 20 minutes or longer. Studies of people of all ages, including the very frail elderly, have found that just about everyone can benefit.
Increase healthy eating. Cook heart-healthy meals at home at least 3 times each week and make your favorite recipe lower sodium. For example, swap out salt for fresh or dried herbs and spices.
Schedule a visit with your doctor and talk about heart health. It’s important to schedule regular check-ups even if you think you are not sick. Know if you have a family history of early cardiovascular events. If you have such a family history, or have risk factors for heart disease — like high cholesterol, high blood pressure or obesity — and follow your doctor’s advice on how to manage and bring heart healthy habits into your lifestyle safely and effectively. Partner with your doctor to set goals for improving your heart health, and and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Take Prescribed Medications. If your doctor has placed you on high blood pressure and cholesterol medications, for goodness sake, take them. If you’re having trouble taking your medicines on time or if you’re having side effects, ask your doctor for help.
Know Your Numbers. Those numbers are blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and body mass index. If any of these numbers are out of the normal range, you can then focus on optimizing these values, usually with a combination of diet, exercise and medications.
Get Screened. SPR offers a simple, pain free, noninvasive CT scan of your heart that takes less than 10 minutes and can help determine if you have coronary artery disease. It uses a multi-detector CT scanner that takes 120 images of your coronary arteries using four small EKG electrodes placed on your chest. No injections, needles or catheters are required.