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Give your heart a check up during American Heart Month


American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month, a reminder that there are practical steps we can all take to improve and maintain our cardiovascular health. Since heart disease and stroke are the leading cause of death for women, the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign focuses on the unique challenges women face and how they can proactively maintain good heart and cardiovascular health.

 

While the American Heart Association’s campaign focuses on women, everyone can benefit from following these guidelines for maintaining and improving heart health:

 

Don’t smoke


Smoking does long-term damage to your heart and if you smoke, consider quitting now. It’s your most important first step to good heart health. There are a variety of smoking cessation programs available, either through your doctor, or on your own. Quitting is not easy, so get as much support as you can. It’s worth the effort. Find some resources here.

 

Control your cholesterol and eat a healthy diet


These two things go hand in hand. Be sure to schedule an annual physical with your primary care physician. As part of that process, you’ll learn about your cholesterol levels, and if you need to modify your diet to improve those numbers. Abiding by the Mediterranean diet is one way to eat healthy and protect your heart.

 

Maintain a healthy weight


Do you know your Body Mass Index? Knowing it will help you know if you are in a healthy or unhealthy range. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention created a handy guide so you can understand your BMI.


Manage your stress


When that guy in the truck cuts you off on the freeway, take a deep breath and say, “boy, that guy must really need to use the bathroom!” Learning to relax in the face of life’s minor inconveniences will benefit your heart in the long run. For further stress management, consider meditation, or doing some relaxing deep breathing exercises.

 

Limit alcohol consumption


Recent studies suggest that even drinking in moderation poses long term health risks. If you do enjoy alcohol, understand the current guidelines for your sex, age and weight. For example, alcohol can have a more negative effect on health as we age.

 

Get plenty of sleep


Plenty of sleep means different things at different points in our life.

For adults, between 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night is best for your heart and your mind.

 

Exercise


Any type of consistent regular exercise is going to keep your heart healthy. Cleaning your house vigorously, doing yard work or gardening, or taking your dog for a long walk all count. You don’t need a fancy gym membership to get some beneficial exercise. Find what type of movement brings you joy and incorporate it into your daily life. Your heart will thank you!

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