Kylie Alger is a certified wellness coach and co-owner of the Well-Woman: Body, Mind & Spirit. (Kylie Alger)
February is heart health month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. The American Heart Association states that 1 in 4 Americans will die of heart disease and more than 1 in 3 adults will suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease.
Ways to observe a Heart Healthy month:
1. Annual physical. If you are not up to date with your annual physical, call your doctor today to schedule your appointment. An annual physical will help your doctor identify your risk for heart disease.
2. Know your heart healthy numbers. What is your cholesterol? Your blood pressure? Your resting heart rate? These numbers are indicators about the health of your heart and circulatory system. Ask your doctor if your numbers are where they should be for optimal health.
3. Take up a heart-healthy habit. Although there are risk factors beyond our control like family history, age or gender; there are many factors that we can control, like diet, exercise, restful sleep and managing stress. The American Heart Association reminds us that 80 percent of heart disease and stroke can actually be prevented by living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. If you have already been diagnosed with heart disease, preventing additional risk factors is something within your control.
This month, focus on the list below and commit to trying something new to help lower or manage your risk(s) for heart disease:
• Exercise. Exercise is essential for living a heart-healthy lifestyle. For overall cardiovascular health for adults, the American Heart Association suggests 30 minutes of aerobic activity five days per week and muscle-strengthening activity at least two days per week. If you struggle to find 30 consecutive minutes, no worries — you’ll get the same benefits if you divide your time into two or three 10 to 15 minute segments a day.
Parents should take note that the American Heart Association recommends that children get at least 60 minutes of exercise every day. Invite your children to do physical activity with you. Play tag, dance, go for walks, move between commercial breaks or do some fun YouTube kids aerobics/dance videos.
• Eat healthy. Remember it’s what you eat consistently that has an impact on your overall health. The American Heart Association recommends a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes and non-tropical vegetable oils. Limit saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and red meat, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages.
• Manage your weight. Carrying extra weight strains your heart, often raises blood pressure, and is linked to high cholesterol levels, specifically high triglycerides and low HDL (the “good” cholesterol), which plays a key role in heart disease.
• Avoid being sedentary. Being sedentary is as big of a risk for heart disease as smoking is. “If you’re sitting at a desk all day — even if you hit the elliptical that morning — you’re still at risk for heart disease,” said Atlanta cardiologist Dr. David Montgomery. Find opportunities to stand, walk and move throughout the day.
• Manage stress. Listen to your self-talk. Instead of saying to yourself, “I’m having the worst day, there is so much to do.” Rephrase it: “I’m having some challenges today and I will get through this one task at a time.” It’s amazing how self-talk has the ability to escalate or minimize feelings.
• Limit alcohol. If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation, which is one drink for women and two drinks for men. Also monitor serving size. A serving size equals 5 ounces of wine, 12-ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.
• Don’t smoke. If you smoke, quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke.
• Add some zest to your life. Having something fun to look forward to has the ability to increase your happiness and decrease stress. So yes, schedule fun in your planner!
Awareness and action are key in keeping your heart healthy.
Kylie Alger is a certified wellness coach and co-owner of the Well-Woman: Body, Mind & Spirit. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org