February is American Heart Month, which is the best time to remind yourself how you can show your heart some love.
Though heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, it is among one of the most preventable diseases, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
“Increased risk of heart disease and stroke are directly related to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and being overweight,” said Dr. Sami Azzam, chief of cardiology at Kaiser Permanente Panorama City Medical Center.
“Making small changes can make a big difference in our heart health,” Azzam added.
The American Heart Association reminds the public that they are never too young or old to start taking care of your heart.
“No matter what your age, everyone can benefit from a healthy diet and adequate physical activity,” according to the American Heart Association website.
“Eating lots of foods high in saturated fat and trans fat may contribute to heart disease,” said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Instead of loading your plate with saturated fat, which includes cheese and butter, Azzam suggests exercising a diet that is high in fruit and vegetables. Eating foods that are lower in saturated fat and trans fat can help prevent high cholesterol.
Reducing alcohol intake can also help prevent high blood pressure.
“If you drink, limit your alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one drink per day for women,” said the American Heart Association website.
Additionally, the American Heart Association also says it’s a myth that red wine is heart-healthy.
Everyone should try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day, according to Azzam.
“Exercising for 30 minutes or more on most days can help you lose weight, improve your cholesterol and even lower your blood pressure by as many as five to seven points,” said a Kaiser Permanente news release. “A sedentary lifestyle, where your job and your leisure activities involve little or no physical activity, doubles your risk of dying from heart disease.”
The 30-minute exercise does not need to be all at the same time to be beneficial. Splitting the workout into three 10-minute sessions or two 15-minute sessions will offer the same benefits for your heart.
This exercise should raise your heart rate, but you should not overwork yourself, either.
Regular check-ups are a vital step in preventing and lowering your risk for heart disease.
For those who have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes, there are additional steps they can take.
Scheduling an appointment with your health provider to learn how to control and manage your health issues will provide you with the resources to lower your risk of heart disease.
“You and your health care team can work together to prevent or treat the medical conditions that lead to heart disease,” says the CDC website. “Discuss your treatment plan regularly, and bring a list of questions to your appointments.”