February is “American Heart Month." While February is also the month we celebrate Valentine's Day, think of flowers and all things dear to our heart; it's also a good time reflect on the health of our heart. Heart Disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States. While any disease and its causes can be complex, here are five things you can do that may help to reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
|Roses by Carole Jakucs. San Marino, CA. Image subject to copyright.|
- Exercise at least 30 minutes daily most days of the week. Consult with your doctor or health care provider before beginning any exercise program.
- If you smoke, STOP! Smoking damages blood vessels which can lead to high blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks and kidney disease in addition to raising your risk of developing Cancer and COPD.
- Eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of fresh organic produce (vegetables and fruits), whole grains and lean protein. Follow a diet that is low in saturated and trans fats (trans fats are also known as "partially hydrogenated oils") salt and sugar (including high fructose corn syrup). Try to incorporate healthy monounsaturated fats in your diet such as olive oil. Following a Mediterranean diet is generally considered a heart healthy diet.
- Monitor your blood pressure to keep it within the normal range which is generally considered 120/80 or lower. High blood pressure damages blood vessels setting the stage for heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease. Consuming a healthy diet that is low is salt (sodium) and contains appropriate amounts of potassium, calcium, magnesium and fiber also helps to control blood pressure. Incorporating these into your diet is part of what's known as the DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension).
- Maintain a healthy weight for your height and frame size. Obesity raises your risk of a wide range of illnesses and diseases.
*Contact your physician or health care provider for any questions or concerns you may have about your health.