The leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
When we hear “heart disease,” our minds often jump straight to heart attacks.
Did you know heart disease is an umbrella term referring to many types of heart conditions? It can include coronary artery disease, heart muscle disease, a stroke, rheumatic heart disease, heart attacks, and more.
In honor of American Heart Month and Valentine’s Day, we’re bringing you four ways you can keep your heart healthy year-round.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Food high in saturated fat and trans fat may increase your chances of heart disease.
But what does that actually mean?
Processed food, such as pre-packaged food with long ingredient lists filled with things most people can’t pronounce, have ingredients added to extend the shelf life or decrease production costs.
These ingredients, saturated fat and trans fat, can be harmful to your heart if too much is consumed over time.
We’re not suggesting ditching the chips forever!
But we are recommending having a balanced diet. Fresh fruit and vegetables, foods high in fiber, and limiting salt and sugar can help boost your heart health.
There’s lots of ways to add balance to your diet. Here are five:
- Add a bowl of fresh fruit or a salad onto the side of meals
- Make smoothies as snacks (and packing in some greens!)
- Include veggies into your eggs, sandwiches, or potatoes
- Swap out store bought or take out dinners with a homemade option, such as vegetable soup or stir fry, where you can add lots of vegetables
- Try homemade versions of your favorite treats, such as homemade yogurt and berry popsicles
Try Non-Alcoholic Alternatives
Many people appreciate a beer after work, a glass of red wine with friends, or a sangria on a patio.
If you’re interested in cutting back, eliminating alcohol from your lifestyle, or maintaining a sober lifestyle, many beer and wine brands carry alcohol-free versions. You can also create mocktails, meaning you can still enjoy your favorite drinks without the heart health concerns (or hangovers).
In 2019, 14% of adults – or 34.1 million people – in the United States smoked cigarettes. Women accounted for 12.7% of those people.
Smokers are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, or diseases that effect the heart. Smoking can lead to a stroke or coronary heart disease, two of the leading causes of death across the nation.
Quitting smoking can greatly improve your chances at bettering your heart health.
If you’re interested in quitting smoking, here are some helpful tips:
- Pick a date and tell a friend, as the mental preparation and external accountability can help
- Set aside the money you would have spent on cigarettes and commit to treating yourself to something nice as a reward
- Surround yourself with positive reinforcement and support from loved ones
- Keep yourself busy with activities that keep your mind and hands occupied, such as art, cleaning, exercise, or cooking
- If it becomes difficult, take a moment to practice mindfulness and remind yourself of all the heart health benefits quitting smoking provides
Maintaining an active lifestyle can help lower your blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.
All you need to reap the health benefits is 30 to 60 minutes per day of moderate-intensity exercise, such as biking or walking.
We know you’re busy, though. If carving out time to exercise is difficult, here are some creative ways to integrate it into your life:
- Schedule five-to-15-minute movement breaks throughout your workday, such as after each meeting
- Take your pet for more or longer walks
- Get more physically involved with your child’s play
- Swap out short drives, such as the five minutes to the local coffee shop, for a brisk walk