The American Heart Association has designated February as American Heart Month, and for good reason: At 17.9 million deaths per year, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the world. Many of us are under the impression that heart disease will simply “happen” to us, no matter what we do, but that simply is not true. Knowledge can empower you to take better care of your heart, to ward off cardiovascular disease or at least manage the progression if you do develop a condition.
Watch your stress level. Numerous research studies have demonstrated a clear link between stress and various health conditions, and heart disease is no exception. For example, chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure, which in turn damages your blood vessels and heart over time. So take care to manage your stress, by utilizing relaxation techniques, yoga, hobbies that help you feel calm, meditation, exercise, or anything else that helps you feel balanced.
Speaking of exercise… Do it! Exercise is one of the best ways to keep your heart healthy. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity each day. Do check with your doctor first, to make sure your exercise plans are safe for your level of health. And if your knees, hips, or other joints bother you, try lower-impact activities like swimming or an elliptical machine.
Don’t smoke. Yes, you’ve heard it before, but smoking cigarettes can damage your lungs and heart over time. It’s never too late to quit! Talk to your doctor if you’re having trouble identifying a smoking cessation program that works for you.
Eat a heart-healthy diet. Three types of food are known to promote heart health: Fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, and foods containing omega-3 fatty acids. These are the healthy unsaturated fats found in fish, nuts, and some seeds. Incorporate more of these foods into your diet, and avoid unhealthy foods that contain empty calories.
Visit your doctor regularly. An annual physical and appropriate health screenings can help you detect problems early, often while they can still be managed or even reversed. Don’t wait until you’re already very sick to seek medical care. Regular consultations with your primary physician can keep your health on a good track, and help you live a longer, happier life.
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