February is American Heart Month. The first proclamation was issued by President Lyndon B. Johnson in February 1964, nine years after he had a heart attack. Since then, the president has annually declared February as American Heart Month. Since Valentine’s Day has us thinking of candy hearts, it’s a great opportunity to take care of our heart.
Heart-healthy living involves understanding your risks, making good choices, and taking steps to reduce your chances of getting heart disease, including coronary heart disease, the most common type. Coronary and other types of heart disease cause heart attacks, but by taking preventive measures, you can lower your risk of developing heart disease and also improve your overall health and well-being.
Here are some tips on heart-healthy living:
- Quit smoking: stopping tobacco use is one of the most important things you can do to make your blood vessels healthier.
- Lose your belly fat: The American Heart Association has determined that excess fat around the middle increases blood pressure.
- Begin a hobby: Put your hands to work to help your mind unwind. Engaging in activities such as knitting, sewing, and crocheting can help relieve stress. Other relaxing hobbies, such as woodworking, cooking, or completing jigsaw puzzles, may also help take the edge off stressful days.
- Improve your salsa with beans: When paired with low-fat chips or fresh veggies, salsa offers a delicious and antioxidant-rich snack. Consider mixing in a can of black beans for an added boost of heart-healthy fiber.
- Dance to the music: Whether you prefer a rumba beat or two-step tune, dancing makes for a great heart-healthy workout. Like other forms of aerobic exercise, it raises your heart rate and gets your lungs pumping. It also burns up to 200 calories or more per hour.
- Laugh out loud: Don’t just LOL in emails or Facebook posts. Laugh out loud in your daily life. According to the American Heart Association, research suggests laughing can lower stress hormones, decrease inflammation in your arteries, and raise your levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as “good cholesterol.”
- Eat chocolate: Dark chocolate not only tastes delicious, it also contains heart-healthy flavonoids. These compounds can help reduce inflammation and lower your risk of heart disease. Eaten in moderation (key word), dark chocolate can actually be good for you.
- Go nuts: Almonds, walnuts, pecans, and other tree nuts deliver a powerful punch of heart-healthy fats, protein, and fiber. Including them in your diet can help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Remember to keep the serving size small because they are also high in calories.
- Avoid salt: Salt may be one of the leading causes of rising healthcare costs in the United States. Processed and restaurant-prepared foods tend to be especially high in salt. So think before you indulge.
- Pay attention to your numbers: Keeping your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides under control is important for good heart health. Learn the optimal levels for your sex and age group. Don’t forget to schedule regular check-ups with your doctor.
It is important to know that maintaining a positive outlook on life may not only improve your mood, but also be good for your heart. Chronic stress, anxiety, and anger can raise your risk of heart disease and stroke. Remaining optimistic and calm are significant for you to live a healthier, longer life.