February is the month devoted to matters of the heart.
This year, instead of focusing only on Cupid, confections, and cards, consider giving your own your cardiovascular health little love, too.
According to the Center for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States. Don't wait until it's too late and you become sick or worse. The best course of action is to start taking steps toward a healthier heart now.
The good news is that it doesn't require a complete life change to make a difference, and you don't have to change everything at once. Small steps over time will be enought to affect your heart health in a positive way. The key is to get started now.
Below are four things you can this month to put your heart health in the spotlight:
Know Your Numbers
Ask your doctor about your cholesterol number and lipid profile, which indicate your "bad" cholesterol number. These numbers will tell you if you should make lifestyle changes. At a minimum, adults should get their cholesterol checked every five years.
Eat Whole Food Nutrition
This is the change no one likes to hear about. But, the truth is that a balanced, whole food diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats reduces risk factors for heart attacks and strokes.
Navigating around a restaurant menu feels almost impossible when you are eating for your heart health. The next time you're at your favorite eatery, try skipping the cheese and bread basket; split your order with a companion; order grilled chicken or fish; and drink water instead of soda. Small adjustments like these will make a big difference over time.
Changing old habits is hard. Ask anyone who is still trying to stick to their resolutions from January.
Make Exercise A Habit
Exercise not only strengthens other muscles in your body, it helps you heart muscle more efficiently pump blood throughout your body, which pushes more blood to your body with each beat. This ultimately slow your heartbeat and keeps your blood pressure under control.
Other ways exercise benefits your heart are weight control, lower stress levels, and reduced inflammation.
The CDC's website states that cigarette smoking is a major cause of heart disease and stroke; it can be blamed for 1 in every 4 deaths from heart disease and stroke. Nearly every organ of a smoker's body is harmed by the effects of smoking. If you are still a smoker, use this month as a motivation to finally quit for good. It's never to start making better choices.
The challenge is that giving up cigarettes is harder than most people anticipate. If you are trying to dump this bad habit for good this year, try using the acronym S.T.A.R.T.:
- Set a quit date.
- Tell your family and friends that you are quitting.
- Anticipate challenges and plan ahead.
- Remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from you home, car, and workplace.
- Talk to your doctor about viable solutions to quitting.
The best way you can care for yourself is to be a champion for your own health and wellness. By making your heart your top priority this month and every month that follows, you will be a role model of good health practices for your community. Making a few tweaks to your lifestyle might be the best gift you can give yourself and your loved ones this year.
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