Want your ticker to keep on ticking for years to come? Show it some love as we celebrate American Heart Month. Here are 10 ways to get you started.
1. Stop smoking
Quit smoking to get a new lease on life. Smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in the U.S. Smokers have a higher risk of developing atherosclerosis or fatty buildup in the arteries. Talk to your primary care physician or check out these helpful resources. Your heart will thank you.
2. Know your numbers
Three numbers directly affect your heart’s health: weight, blood pressure and total cholesterol. Standard guidelines exist for blood pressure and cholesterol, but your ideal weight depends on your age, height and other factors. Ask your healthcare provider.
3. Screen for diabetes
7 million Americans have undiagnosed diabetes, but a simple blood test can detect the disease. You can manage diabetes in a variety of ways under a physician’s care. Left untreated, diabetes can lead to heart disease and other health complications.
4. Add color to your plate
Your heart thrives on the nutrients found in fruit and vegetables. Eat a rainbow of colorful produce for every meal and snack. Grate zucchini and carrots into your favorite recipes. Reach for cantaloupe, yellow bell peppers and blackberries for treats throughout your day.
5. Walk your way to better health
Walking is one of the easiest ways to get active and help your heart. It lowers your risk of stroke and heart disease while helping you maintain a healthy weight. Plus, it helps improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
6. Practice gratitude
Being grateful can lower blood pressure and improve your immune system, according to clinical trials. Take time each day to appreciate the good things in your life from friends and family to your health and happiness.
7. Say no to stress
Stress raises your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, according to the American Heart Association. Get physically active, enjoy a new hobby or try meditating. Look for more tips here.
8. Say yes to more sleep
Sleeping is a great way to restore your body, lower stress and lift your spirits. Experts recommend seven hours each night, a calming bedtime routine and sunshine and physical activity throughout the day. Establish healthy sleep patterns by going to bed at the same time and waking up on a consistent schedule daily.
9. Skip added sugars
Sugar added to processed foods and beverages can lead to disease and raise your risk of an early death. They’re in energy drinks, breakfast bars and cereals, candy and ice cream and baked goods like muffins and donuts. Read nutrition labels and shoot for these daily limits: 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men.
10. Cook heart-healthy meals at home
You’re in control of what you eat when you cook at home. Choose healthier meats and proteins like chicken, fish and beans. Use herbs and spices to flavor foods instead of salt. Replace butter and tropical oils with healthy fats such as olive, canola and peanut oils.