By: Mission Healthy Living
February 12, 2019
With red hearts posted everywhere for Valentine’s Day, it’s a good time to think about our loved ones and how to lead long, happy lives together. Especially since February is American Heart Month—and heart disease is the number one cause of death for Americans. The statistics are staggering:
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease.
Lower High Blood Pressure
- Approximately 1 in 3 American adults have high blood pressure. High blood pressure often has no symptoms but increases the risk for heart disease and stroke. Be sure to check your blood pressure regularly and ask about any unusual results with your doctor. “120 over 80” is the standard normal blood pressure. If your numbers are higher, you may be at risk.
- Reduce your sodium intake to help lower (or prevent) high blood pressure. Many people think this means putting down the salt shaker at dinner—however, one of the biggest sources of sodium in the American diet is actually packaged/processed foods.
- Learn how to manage stress in a safe and healthy way that works for you.
- The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend at least 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week for adults. This doesn’t have to be all at once! It works out to 2.5-5 hours total over the span of seven days. Break it up into manageable time slots that work best with your schedule. For example, a quick 15-minute jog in the morning, and again in the evening, works out to 3.5 hours per week. Or if you hit the gym for half an hour on your lunch break during the workweek, that equals 2.5 hours.
- In general, try to move more and sit less during the day. Any physical activity is better than no physical activity!
- Smoking damages your blood vessels and is a major risk factor in cardiovascular disease, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. No matter how long you’ve been smoking, there are still health benefits to ceasing tobacco use. It’s never too late to quit!
- Avoid secondhand smoke too. Secondhand smoke contains many of the same harmful chemicals as actively smoking.
Fact: “Cardiovascular disease” refers to more than just your heart! It includes your entire vascular system—which means the blood vessels throughout your body. This is why a stroke (which happens when a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked) is considered a cardiovascular condition rather than a brain condition.
If you have a family history of heart disease, or if you’re concerned you might be at risk, work with your doctor to come up with a specialized plan to help keep you healthy!