There are some things you just can’t live without – and your heart is one of them. February is Heart Health Month, an important time to focus on developing healthy lifestyle habits to help keep your ticker ticking. Taking small steps to improve your heart health each day can result in big payoffs for your overall vitality. Following these simple tips can help you reduce your risk for heart disease – the leading killer of Americans – by up to 80 percent.
Stop the stress.
It’s often easier said than done, but making a conscious effort to stress less can do wonders for your heart. Prolonged stress can increase blood pressure, which can damage artery walls, and also lead to a higher occurrence of self-medicating behaviors like smoking and drinking alcohol. Try meditation, taking a yoga class, going on a leisurely walk, or enjoying a long, relaxing bath to help keep your stress level in check for better heart health.
Commit to cardio.
You’ve heard it before, but it’s true that regular exercise can help thwart heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. When your busy schedule gets in the way, try working other simple cardio activities into your daily routine. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or park in a distant parking spot at work so you have to walk farther to the building. These little bits of exercise throughout the day can add up and help build a healthy heart!
Halt the Salt.
Salt is a major contributor when it comes to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an astonishing 90 percent of Americans eat too much sodium, with the average person consuming more than 3,000 mg of sodium per day. Be mindful of your daily sodium intake, and aim to keep the amount below 1,500 mg per day. Pay close attention to food labels, and steer clear of processed foods, bread, cold cuts, cured meats, soups, and pizza – just to name a few top sources of sodium – as much as possible.
Shelve the Sugar.
Like salt, sugar consumption is another major risk factor when it comes to endangering heart health. Eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain and also diabetes, which both increase the chances of developing heart disease. Shop for foods with labels indicating there is no added sugar, and choose unsweetened items whenever possible. Be sure to avoid those tempting sugar-packed beverages – like sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and even flavored water. When your sweet tooth gets the best of you, consider a healthy serving of fruit, such as blueberries or raspberries, which have lower sugar content compared to other fruits.