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American Heart Month: Commit to a Healthy Heart

Feb 01, 2016

heart health
As February rolls around, we might think of love and Valentine’s Day. It is also American Heart Month, the time to make a special commitment to a heart healthy lifestyle.

Commit to a healthy heart with these heart-healthy lifestyle tips:

Stop Smoking. If you are a smoker, quit. If someone in your household smokes, encourage them to quit. Breaking a nicotine addiction can be very difficult — if you need help, talk to your health care provider. No matter how hard it may be to quit, dealing with heart attack or stroke, or living with chronic heart disease can be even more difficult.

Choose heart-healthy nutrition. The foods you eat have a direct effect on controllable risk factors for heart disease, including cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, and weight. Choose foods that are rich in nutrients — vitamins, minerals and fiber, to name a few — and low in calories. Focus on fruits and veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish and nuts. Limit your intake of sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages and red meats.

Limit alcohol. Too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure, and increase risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer, among other diseases. Excessive alcoholism can also contribute to obesity. There are, however, some potential heart healthy benefits of alcohol. If you drink, limit your alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Though there may be potential benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, it is not recommended that a nondrinker start drinking.

Control your blood cholesterol. When fat becomes lodged in your arteries, you’re heart is almost like a ticking time bomb. High cholesterol could trigger heart attack or stroke, which can be life altering, if not fatal. Reduce your intake of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. If you have high cholesterol, talk to your doctor to determine if medication might be necessary.

Keep blood pressure in check. High blood pressure is another major risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Limit your consumption of salt, take medications as recommended, and exercise regularly to control your blood pressure. An optimal blood pressure reading is less than 120/80 mmHg.

Manage diabetes. At least 68 percent of adults over age 65 who have diabetes die of some sort of heart disease. Another 16 percent die of stroke. Work closely with your doctor to manage your diabetes through nutrition, exercise and medications.

Be active. Daily physical activity is essential for heart health. At minimum, aim to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. Even 10 minutes here or there can be beneficial.

Reduce stress. There is a potential link between stress and heart disease. People who are under stress tend to overeat, get less exercise, and pick up unhealthy habits such as smoking or drinking. Manage your stress levels with meditation, exercise, hobbies and relaxation.

Maintain a healthy weight. The rates of obesity in America are alarming — more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese. What is more, obesity-related conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancers are some of the leading causes of preventable death. Maintain a healthy weight with proper nutrition and physical activity. If you need help getting started on your weight loss journey, contact Nicholson Clinic.

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