February is American Heart Month! So it is a perfect time to think about how to celebrate your heart and the choices that you make to benefit your cardiovascular system. According to the American Heart Association cardiovascular disease is the #1 killer among Americans. The AMA was formed to educated Americans on how to take the proper steps to recognize symptoms of cardiovascular diseases and inform them about the health of their heart.
Most Americans have a family member or someone close to them that has been effected by a heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, high cholesterol, or other forms of cardiovascular disease. It is common to think that we are not at risk for disease when we are young and that it is not something that we should be worrying about, but heart disease is the #1 cause of death in women over the age of 20. Heart disease surpasses all other causes of premature death, even cancer. That is some scary stuff.
Our bodies are finely tuned machines that need all the right ingredients to make a long lasting survival. The choices we make about our activity levels, the foods we eat, how we deal with stress, are all factors that impact the health of our heart. The heart is the engine that keeps the rest of the machine going.
Americans are busy people. We all fill up our time worrying about our careers and trying to plan for the future that we can neglect our current well being. I know that I have felt this in my life, and for years struggled with the idea of my career always trumping my health. But there are things we can do to take care of ourselves to assure that we will be around many years for our loved ones. The American Heart Association recommends 7 simple steps for better heart health, they are:
1. Get Active. To improve cardiovascular functions it is recommended that people engage themselves in 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. Think about it, that could be five days of 30 minutes on a bike or three days of a 50 minute power walk. If you are feeling really bold you can spend 75 minutes participating in vigorous activity a week. The best part about your activities are that they are your choice.
2. Control Cholesterol. This one can be a bit tricky. We all need some cholesterol in our system, but Americans tend to over due it with most of our nutrient sources coming from highly processed foods and animal sources. So be proactive in what you are consuming. Educate yourself on what the foods you put into your body contain and focus on gaining most of your nutrients from fruits and vegetables.
3. Eat Better. Funny how everything connects. Fruits and veggies are low in calories and rich in the fibers that leave us feeling fuller for longer periods of time. They contain all the proper vitamins and nutrients that our bodies need. We all do like to indulge, but setting a goal for yourself to consume the bulk of your diet from products that grown naturally from the earth and can be consumed as close to their natural state as possible is a great way to repay your heart.
4. Manage Blood Pressure. Blood pressure is effected by the foods we eat and our activity levels. Those that have lower levels of activity and have a high consumption of processed foods will naturally have a higher blood pressure. While this can be managed by medication but it can also be managed by the choices we make in our everyday life.
5. Lose Weight. This is not necessary an option for everyone, but over one third of Americans are not only over weight but are obese. Consulting with your doctor and getting routine check-ups are a good way to keep yourself updated about your weight and current health state. Before anyone makes any attempt to lose weight, seek advise of your doctor about the safest and best way for you to achieve this.
6. Reduce Blood Sugar. Having control over your blood sugar will decrease your chances of being afflicted by diabetes.
7. Stop Smoking. We all know that smoking is bad for us, yet millions of Americans do it anyways. The long term effects that smoking has on the body far outweigh the short term satisfaction. Speaking to your doctor about the best way to kick that habit can be really beneficial.
It is never too late to make changes in your lifestyle. Celebrate American Heart Month with me by thinking about your lifestyle choices and how they will effect your long term heart health. There is only one you, and you are the only one responsible for taking the necessary steps to take care of yourself. Show your heart how much you love it this February!
NOTE: I am not a medical professional. All of my information was taken from the American Heart Association. Consult with your doctor before making any drastic changes in your life.