February is American Heart Month and Valentine’s Day, get the association?
Heart health is an important issue that many of us aren’t exactly sure how to deal with. How exactly do we become heart healthy? That’s a question we’re going to dive into today.
What does “heart healthy” mean?
Heart healthy refers to living a lifestyle where your heart is being taken care of. When it comes to cardiovascular disease, a poor diet and lack of exercise are big factors in developing a heart-harming condition.
It’s best to start on your healthy lifestyle as soon as possible. This means monitoring your cholesterol and blood pressure levels and correcting course in your diet and exercise to combat high numbers.
What can affect heart health?
A poor heart is usually one that is plagued by atherosclerosis. This is when cholesterol rich pockets develop inside the arteries restricting blood flow. This is how heart attacks and strokes occur.
Cardiovascular disease is anything that affects the heart and blood vessels. This includes atherosclerosis and also heart failure, arrhythmia, and heart valve problems.
The American Heart Association breaks the risk factors into three categories:
Major risk factors
Research has shown that these unchangeable factors significantly increase the risk of heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease.
Modifiable risk factors
Some major risk factors can be modified, treated or controlled through medications or lifestyle change.
Contributing risk factors
These factors are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, but their significance and prevalence haven’t yet been determined.
How do we become heart healthy?
The best way to prevent cardiovascular disease is to learn more about the risk factors and how you can slow down your risk.
The American Heart Association has a special section just about managing cholesterol.
They also have a section on how to get your high blood pressure under control, with types like taking a brisk walk each day to lower your levels.
Some of the most important things you need to do involve changing your lifestyle:
- Quit smoking: This can affect your cholesterol level and tobacco is not good for your heart.
- Become more active: 40 minutes of aerobic exercise 3-4 times a week is enough to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Heart healthy diet: Eat more vegetables, fruits, nuts, poultry, whole grains, fish, and low-fat dairy. Avoid sugary food and drinks, and red meat.
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Take medications: If your doctor sees you at risk for high blood pressure, they’ll likely prescribe you medication.